Skip to comments.No to Nukes: Nuclear power isnít cost-effective, no matter how you do the math.
Posted on 06/27/2012 9:04:38 PM PDT by neverdem
When Barack Obama was just a baby, nuclear energy was touted as the technology that would finally provide pollution-free, limitless electricity for all. In its famous 1962 Port Huron Statement, the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society gushed about how our monster cities might now be humanized thanks to nuclear power. Like so many predictions about the future, that one rather dramatically missed the mark.
Surprising as it may seem, the United States still generates around 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants. This despite the fact that no new facilities have been built since the notorious Three Mile Island accident of 1979, which released small amounts of radioactive gases and iodine into the environment after a partial meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Public opinion has remained steadfast against the technology ever since. In February The Economist reported that 64 percent of Americans opposed building new reactors. Disputes over waste disposal have never been resolved, and the Fukushima reactor meltdown in March 2011 cast further doubt on the idea that nuclear power will ever be a long-term clean-energy solution in the United States.
All of this has not stopped the Obama administration from betting on nukes. Even though the president prefers talking up more fashionable (and less economically viable) technologies such as wind and solar, in February his Nuclear Regulatory Commission quietly approved construction of what would be the first two new nuclear reactors in two generations. In 2010 Secretary of Energy Steven Chu touted the White Houses commitment to restarting the American nuclear industry and creating thousands of new jobs and export opportunities in the process.
But jump-starting nuclear power is not just bad politics. Its awful economics.
The nuclear energy industry in the United States is powered by corporate welfare on plutonium. What is in theory a wonderful technology is in practice an economic white elephant. The data accumulated during the last 30 years suggest strongly that nuclear plants will never be able to cover their operating costs, let alone recoup the billions it costs to build them.
A 2009 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study led by physicist Ernest J. Moniz and engineer Mujid S. Kazimi showed that nuclear energy costs 14 percent more than gas and 30 percent more than coal. And thats after taking into account a baked-in taxpayer subsidy that artificially lowers nuclear plants operating costs.
A 2010 study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that nuclear power will remain more expensive to produce than other conventional sources of electricity in 2016 (see chart). Based on this analysis, nuclear power is also more expensive than wind power, although cheaper than solar and clean coal.
While the nuclear industry in the United States has seen continued improvement in operating performance over time, it remains uncompetitive with coal and natural gas on price. This cost differential is primarily driven by high capital costs and long construction times, often more than 10 years.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, nuclear power plants, on average, wind up costing three times more to build than original estimates suggest. Inflation, especially in the more nuclear-powered 1970s, played some role in the problem of ballooning costs. But when a project takes more than a decade to complete, labor and capital costs can grow in unexpected ways as well.
Historically, nuclear energy has flourished only in countries, such as France and Japan, where governments have stepped in with heavy subsidies. Yet dating back to at least the Reagan years, many conservatives have argued that if it werent for the regulatory costs and other barriers imposed by the federal government, nuclear energy would be competitive in the United States as well. While these conservatives rarely have a kind word for a nation of cheese-eating surrender monkeys, they dont hesitate to point to Francewhich gets about 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power and has never suffered a large-scale disasteras demonstrable proof that nuclear power can be affordable and safe if companies are given the opportunity to build plants.
But producing nuclear energy in France is not magically cheaper than elsewhere. French citizens are forced to pay inflated costs to support grand government schemes, such as the decision made 30 years ago to go nuclear at any cost after the first oil shock in 1974.
In a 2010 paper published by the Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School economist Mark Cooper found that the overall cost of generating nuclear power in France is similar to that in the United States. The price range for the two countries (after adjusting for purchasing power) overlap, despite the fact that the U.S. has a relatively strict regulatory regime and France has a relatively loose one: Frances estimated cost for a kilowatt of power is between $4,500 and $5,000; the estimated cost in the U.S. is between $4,000 and $6,000. Those figures remain stubbornly high, despite decades of efforts to get them down to manageable levels.
The main reason no new nuclear power plants have been built in the United States in 30 years is that they have proven to be poor investments, producing far more expensive electricity than originally promised. Giving the thumbs up to start work now on two new nuclear plants is an act of desperation by a president who has realized he is running out of other options.
Contributing Editor Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
And reprocess nuclear waste like the French and Japanese too, IIRC.
And always has been. We have enough coal and gas to make us energy independent for a long time. Nuclear requires a tremendous amount of government involvement and financial backing.
That statement is perfectly true.
However, the root cause is that over-regulation by government is the reason for the expense.
Fuel is cheap, equipment is cheap, complying with gooberment regulations is the expensive part.
The future of nuclear power is LENR.
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Coal is going the way of nukes, with government involvment. As is gas.
They just want you dead.
They throw up specious arguments about cost effectivness without addressing that the government is responsible for the added costs.
It's here with coal. You just lived through it.
Wait until they do it with gas.
Reprocessing fuel here in the United States ended thanks to Jimmy Carter. Since then spent fuel rods have been accumulating in fuel pools. The technology is there, it is in use in other countries. The French technology was used on the West Valley Demonstration Project - I worked on that one. The barrier is political. No nukes! No nukes! Else more Chernobyl’s, mushroom clouds (luddites running in circles)
Given that we recently had a 5+ earthquake near Mineral, Virginia, and a nearby nuclear plant, I am not sorry that there are at least some government regulations. I’ll bet the Japanese wish there had been more.
How much Luddism was Carter involved with anyway . . . ? The man really does seem to have a mean streak and an animus against the USA.
The author seems to have little understanding of the efficiency of breeder reactor technology.
Exactly. If every track athlete in the country is forced to strap an anvil on his back during competition, it's pretty silly to make the observation that American track athletes are too slow to compete internationally any more, "...no matter how you do the math."
This writer is ignorant. The rest of the world has advanced their nuclear power industry through innovation and modernization (including creative reprocessing techniques).
France gets 80% of its power from nuclear.
Well this is very sad news to us all on the energy front ..... however .... I heard from the Obama Administration's "Energy Czar" that they are also looking into "Twinkle Stardust" as well as "Rainbow Energy" breakthroughs that are showing promise!
AND In addition, I am also told that if these do not pan out as energy replacements .... I am told by my infallible sources in the Obama Energy Department that they have, on stand by, the infallible and dynamic renewable resource of "Unicorn Farts" to help us through this crisis.
So, as far as I am concerned .... there is no reason to worry and. .. no cause for allarm ..... Hey .... we are all in good hands :-)
Moronic. No amount of regulation will make buildings safe from an ocean of water moving on top of it. Acts of God will always top anything mankind is likely to put together. The point is to build it safe enough for most foreseeable incidents. Over-regulation is exactly what is destroying numerous sectors of our economy. It's unneeded, is not helpful, and does nothing but help destroy freedom and national wealth.
Considering that 25,000 some odd were killed by the tsunami and earthquake, and that several nuclear workers got enough exposure to match eating one more banana in a year, I don’t think the Japanese think they need more regulations for nukes. Of course if you were selling regulated tsunamis, you would get some agreement.
The point is to build it safe enough for most foreseeable incidents.
***So was the post-earthquake tsunami on Fukushima foreseeable? If so, why didn’t they foresee it. If not, why not, because such events seem to happen often enough in nature to generate plenty of data. For instance:
Chapter 4. Tsunami Probability
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View
the cumulative number of tsunamis since the start of the 20th century indicates that the rate of reported events gradually becomes constant soon after the pivotal ...