I can’t really say it often enough: nuclear power is a scandal. It’s squandered trillions of dollars, generated waste that will be lethal for hundreds of thousands of years, blighted vast areas of Japan and the Ukraine – and is still an accident waiting to happen. But, you say, in this age of warming, we need clean nuclear power to cut our greenhouse gas emissions. Utter, unadulterated, dangerously stupid bullshit! Okay? Can it be said any more clearly than that? Part of the extraordinary tragedy of commercial nuclear power is the fact that while the planet is truly burning, the Nukefists are fiddling away time, money, expertise and political will with this proven outrage of a technology.
What’s set me off today – not that I need much when it comes to nuclear power because I’ve hated it for 40+ years – is a couple of articles in the NY Times. Good old Matt Wald has been writing about nuclear power since Hector was a pup. He’s writing today about the two reactors under construction by the Southern Company in Georgia. They are at least 14 months behind schedule, now, and priced, now, at $14 billion. The article is titled Atomic Power’s Green Light or Red Flag. The nuclear power industry in the US, on life support for years, may rise or fall on the success or failure of these two units. The economics are stupendously askew. What Wald doesn’t tell you until near the end of the article is that some of the Public Service Commission members – those who likely haven’t been bought outright by the good folks at the Southern Company, bless their hearts – say “…the benefits of building the plant are razor-thin and could be eliminated by further delays and cost increases.” Count on both of those.
Wald goes on to say that the “Vermont Law School Institute for Energy and the Environment, predicted in a study in March that over their lifetimes, Vogtle 3 and 4 would cost $10 billion more than the alternatives.” (See also this: Vogtle as the next Solyndra.) Why then would Southern choose this path? Because, the author of the study maintains, “they can collect profits on their investments. In Georgia they can do so even before the plant is finished.” How’s that work?! The magic of “advance cost recovery.” Good luck to you, local ratepayers, not to mention the American taxpayer.
The other NY Time article was a review of a new documentary lauding the benefits of nuclear power. The reviewer pans it as being, essentially, propaganda. (Reviews, including the NYT’s, are here.) The movie features folks like Stewart Brand who is a post-hippie era vociferous advocate of nukes. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how this guy went so far off the rails. (Too much acid, maybe, on Further, finally caught up with him.) I confronted him at a talk in NYC a couple of years ago. In any event, Amory Lovins thoroughly eviscerates all of Brand’s and the “green” nuclear advocates in his paper, Four Nuclear Myths: A Commentary on Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline and on Similar Writings. (I find this an essential essay and assign it to my classes as an excellent overview of how power production actually works in the world – and how it should work. See also my recent post on renewables in Germany here.)
The estimable energy writer, Chris Nelder, has another good piece here today at SmartPlanet. He reports on the death of the San Onofre plant in California. Too cheap to meter. was nuclear’s slogan way back when. Not so much. I like Nelder’s opening line: “Stick a fork in U.S. nuclear power.” Classic. (My thought, a couple of years back, was along the lines of Nuclear Power: Running on fumes?) Nelder has a thoughtful, comprehensive look at the state of the economics on nukes. Conclusion? “The cost trends are clearly in favor of renewables and natural gas (at least so long as the latter stays cheap, which is uncertain) and against nuclear. On current growth trends, according to a new analysis by Gregor Macdonald, solar will overtake nuclear generation globally by 2020.”
When will enough be enough for the Nukefists and their enablers? Not soon enough for me.