Thursday, March 17, 2011

Everything Is NOT Fine, Nukes Are NOT A Solution

Nuclear power plants are a problem. An economic problem, a health problem, an environmental problem, and a security problem. The problem can not be fixed.

Executives and salesmen from nuclear power industry will be all over the media in the weeks to come, especially the corrupt conservative media like Fox News, telling you that what happened in Japan could never happen in the U.S. (even though it did at Three Mile Island -- there was a partial, and nearly full meltdown there).

The executives and salesmen will tell you that steady improvements have been made to reactor design since Three Mile Island melted down, and that there is nothing to fear. That is your cue to cry, "Bullshit!" The problem can not be fixed. Nuclear power plants are too complicated to manage safely in a crisis. Too many things will go wrong. This has been proven more than once. And, there are proven cheaper, safer solutions.

And the executives and salesmen will tell you that to meet our future energy needs while limiting carbon emissions, we must make nuclear power a larger part of our electricity generating mix, that we must use every means at our disposal. That is stupid. When you cut off your hand with a chainsaw and rush to the emergency room, you do not expect the doctors to try a bit of everything. You expect them to try what is known to work best. Renewables are proven to work best, and cost less. Renewables give a better cure, faster.

The best reasons not to build nuclear power plants are cost and timing. The cost of nuclear power is much higher than that of renewables, especially distributed renewables which don't require new transmission lines. Also, renewables are much quicker to build, so renewables save more carbon, more quickly. That timing advantage yields far more climate protection. No nuclear plant, even if construction started today, would have any meaningful impact on mitigating the climate crisis we face because they take too long to build. Further, worse delays and cost overruns than in the past will inevitably occur because we no longer manufacture in the US the required components to build a nuclear power plant. It is estimated that 80% of the parts would come from abroad. Doesn't that seem a bit risky to you?

In the words of Amory Lovins from the Rocky Mountain Institute, in a paper titled "Mighty Mice:"
Buying a costlier option, like nuclear power, instead of a cheaper one, like ‘negawatts’ and micropower, displaces less carbon per dollar spent. This opportunity cost of not following the least-cost investment sequence – the order of economic and environmental priority – complicates climate protection. The indicative costs in Figure 3 (neglecting any differences in the energy embodied in manufacturing and supporting the technologies) imply that we could displace coal-fired electricity’s carbon emissions by spending $0.10 to deliver any of the following:
  • 1.0kWh of new nuclear electricity at its 2004 US subsidy levels and costs.
  • 1.2-1.7kWh of dispatchable windpower at zero to actual 2004 US subsidies and at 2004-2012 costs.
  • 0.9-1.7kWh of gas-fired industrial cogeneration or ~2.2-6.5kWh of building-scale trigeneration (both adjusted for their carbon emissions), or 2.4-8.9kWh of waste-heat cogeneration burning no incremental fossil fuel (more if credited for burning less fuel).
  • From several to at least 10kWh of end-use efficiency.
The ratio of net carbon savings per dollar to that of nuclear power is the reciprocal of their relative cost, corrected for gas-fired CHP’s carbon emissions (assumed here to be threefold lower than those of the coal-fired power plant and fossil-fuelled boiler displaced). As Bill Keepin and Greg Kats put it in Energy Policy (December 1988), based on their still-reasonable estimate that efficient use could save about seven times as much carbon per dollar as nuclear power, “every $100 invested in nuclear power would effectively release an additional tonne of carbon into the atmosphere” – so, counting that opportunity cost, “the effective carbon intensity of nuclear power is nearly six times greater than the direct carbon intensity of coal fired power.” Whatever the exact ratio, their finding remains qualitatively robust even if nuclear power becomes far cheaper and its competitors don’t.
Speed matters too: if nuclear investments are also inherently slower to deploy, as market  behaviour indicates, then they don’t only reduce but also retard carbon displacement. If climate matters, we must invest judiciously, not indiscriminately, to procure the most climate solution per dollar and per year. Empirically, on both criteria, nuclear power seems less effective than other abundant options on offer. The case for new nuclear build as a means of climate protection thus requires reexamination.
Rule out nukes now. Do not let corrupt politicians waste precious money and time making a bunch of already overpaid executives richer on the taxpayer's dime. You will sleep better, and you will save a mountain of money. Renewables create better paid, long-term as opposed to short-term jobs, and renewables will preserve our climate and environment, leaving a much better world for the future.

BTW, here's a map of nuclear power stations around the globe, overlaid on a map of seismic faults:
Nuclear Power Plants & Earthquake Activity


  1. Anti Nuclear Protest EVERY MONDAY 6pm Elysee Palace, PARIS Manifestation Anti Nucléaire

    Manif Anti Nucléaire chaque Lundi 18h Palais de l'Élysée, Présidence de la République, PARIS

    Anti Atom Protest JEDEN MONTAG 18h Elysee Palast, PARIS

    Manifestation Antinucléaire Palais de L'Elysée chaque Lundi 18h Palais de l'Élysée, PARIS, FRANCE


    Tokyo Protesters encirle Tokyo Prime Minister every week Friday evening

    Tokyo Anti Nuclear Protest 3.8.2012

    Tokyo Anti Nuclear Protest 10.8.2012


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