No Nukes

| | Comments (0)
Nuke Plant locations. Courtesy: INSC

Japan is issuing America due notice! Build new nuclear power plants at your citizen's peril. The message could not be clearer. But, there are powerful money interests intent on proliferating nuclear power in America, nonetheless, and they will be tough to turn down. Let's look at the facts and weigh them against the perils and benefits.

The Three Mile Island nuclear facility failed for one set of reasons. The Chernobyl facility failed for another set of reasons. The Japanese facilities failed for another set of reasons. It should be clear to anyone with common sense that the profiteers of nuclear power plants have demonstrated that they are not capable of anticipating the many scenarios which can cause a nuclear power plant facility to fail. If they were, they would have designed protections against such scenarios. Alternatively, they did anticipate such scenarios, and decided protections would not be cost effective. In either case, nuclear power facilities are accidents waiting to happen.

Some politicians defending nuclear power profiteer campaign contributors are arguing that planes crash and cars collide, but, we don't abandon air or car travel. Such politicians obviously think their listeners are idiots. At worst, a plane crashes into a stadium filled with people and kills a few thousand people and destroys several buildings or structures, which can be rebuilt for several million dollars. The space where this happened is very quickly filled with life and activity again which recoups the financial and economic losses from the accident.

When a nuclear power facility melts down, not only is a tasteless, odorless, and invisible cloud of death sent down wind to injure and kill those in its path, but, its a death that keeps on killing in the form of birth defects in the next generation, or cancers that kill years after the radiation exposure. When a nuclear meltdown occurs, a dead zone is created that cannot be cleaned up, and it will remain a dead zone for hundred or thousand years. Nature has chosen to bury radiation producing materials deep inside earth's crust, thus allowing life to flourish and diversify on the earth's surface. Profiteers mean to reward themselves by digging up these materials and either deliberately or accidentally spread these radiation materials in concentrations in thousands of places around the earth's surface, most often near dense human population centers like Philadelphia, Chicago, or Tokyo.

Airplane jet fuel or auto gasoline are consumed and converted through use. Except for CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, once spent, these fuels constitute little to no public safety hazard. On the other hand, only a small percentage of nuclear fuel for power plants is consumed to produce electricity, and the so-called, "spent" fuel rods, are in fact, not spent, but, become a lethal and very costly byproduct to be stored somewhere, everywhere, the profiteers can find a cheap place to stockpile them. Stockpiled, they await their own accident and become a potential source of deadly headlines in their own right. These costs are never factored into the shareholder's dividend and profit reports or cost benefit industry analysis presented to politicians for the license of yet another nuclear facility.

It was once commented that nuclear power plants are the most costly way of detecting seismic fault zones. In far too many cases, nuclear power plants have been erected, prompting seismic (earthquake) research to be conducted in the area after the fact, only to discover the nuclear power plant has been built in a seismic area. Two such power plants sit within miles of the San Andreas fault in California in Southern California. Learning of these fault zones comes after the power plant's erection, in too many cases and pose a grave public health and economic risk generations into the future.

With what has been learned in the last few decades, the entire land mass of earth is part and parcel of a tectonic plate system continuously on the move. In fact, the earthquake in Japan last week resulted in Japan moving 13 feet closer to the California coast, and shortening the earth day by microseconds, now requiring atomic clocks to be reset to accommodate this change in the speed of the Earth's rotation. Car and airplane accidents threaten only a few dozen people at a time, and leave no lasting threat for those coming upon the accident site.

New Madrid damage zones in 1811

The New Madrid fault zone lying at the four corners intersection of Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas, (red area in the map to the left) shook bells in church steeples in Boston, Mass. during its last huge earthquake in 1811. There were only sparse populations and no nuclear power facilities affected by those earthquakes in the 1800's. But, take a look at the nuclear power facilities now built in the New Madrid seismic area in the first map above. This is monumental disaster in the form of a ticking time bomb (click image for larger view).

Nuclear power plant accidents however, like these in Japan, will result in very long term negative effects and costs through loss of precious land and water use, as well as negative genetic effects that will likely go unnoticed and unrecorded for hundreds, thousands, or even 10's of thousands of people, many of them not even born yet. The costs of the Japanese nuclear power accident is already in the of billions of dollars, and those costs are still growing daily. America's total insurance pool against a nuclear mishap is currently only 10 billion dollars. Compare these costs to those of a plane crash or 60 car pile up on the freeway. There is no rational comparison. Politicians trying to make such comparisons can rightfully be viewed as hucksters selling potential death and serious health risks for a few dollars more in campaign contributions.

Myth: Nuclear power is cheaper. In a survey of recent estimates (since 2004) of the relative and "apples and apples" comparisons of coal, gas, and nuclear electricity, nuclear is the more expensive option. (See graph below.) Nuclear capital costs, the cost to create a new nuclear power plant, are very high compared to coal or gas electric production plants, while the cost of nuclear fuel is relatively very much lower than gas or coal. But, nuclear power plants have a life span of only about 40 years, where coal and gas plants can easily double that production period. The key in comparing apples to apples, however, is when all cost factors are taken into account, including those associated with CO2 emissions for coal, decommissioning costs of nuclear plants, and the public sector costs typically assumed to even open the door for private investors to invest in nuclear power plants.

The nuclear industry like General Electric will cite "overnight" costs in their estimates for constructing nuclear power plants. The 'overnight cost" is the cost of completing a nuclear power plant, start to finish, overnight, which excludes all the financing costs and other cost overruns and delays. Typically, financing a new nuclear power plant will occur over a period in excess of 10 years, and often closer to 20. In this way, GE can make the cost of nuclear power plant creation appear more competitive with other alternatives. But, the 'all in' costs for nuclear power which include all other costs, are typically more than double what the industry's 'overnight' costs reported are.

Other pro-nuclear statistics love to site cost per kilowatt of electricity, but these figures vary widely, depending on whether the life of the plant is used in the calculation, all capital and financing and insurance costs are factored in, or not. Decommissioning and public costs are never included in these figures. These figures are used to compare the cost of nuclear electricity production with other methods like coal or natural gas, which make nuclear appear to be substantially cheaper based on the input fuel costs, primarily.

If realistic cost equations could be devised for attaching global warming costs to CO2 emissions, and then a comparison of coal fired electricity were compared to nuclear costs with all its consequential costs, something closer to parity might be realized. But, there are no such equations that I can find. But, here's the crucial difference. Even if coal fired costs were roughly equal to nuclear power costs, a failure in a coal plant doesn't carry the social health and reproductive risks that are associated with nuclear failures like those occurring now in Japan and will attend the next New Madrid earthquake in America's future.

We have alternatives like wind, solar, and geothermal, which do not carry the incredible risks that nuclear power generated electricity carries. And that differential has to become part of the financial calculus in where societies like ours invest their energy dollars, if a rational approach to our energy future is to be achieved. One incredibly ignored alternative to nuclear power is energy efficiency. There is no substitute for energy efficiency.

An earth-bermed home will consume up to 75% less energy than a free standing surface ground home. Solar power can easily supply an earth bermed home with more than 90% of its electrical needs. Urban planning which creates work centered housing communities in which residents can walk or bicycle to work within a 2 mile radius can lower fuel demand enormously over that expended on long commutes across town by nearly everyone. Telecommuting work loads to employees home computers is a proven and enormous cost saver in energy terms. Whole industries in banking, insurance, and advisory services, and even a good portion of medical health needs can now be conducted over communication lines requiring no commutes by customers or employees.

Where are the discussions of these alternatives on Capital Hill? They don't take place. And they don't take place for one simple reason. Our politicians get too much of their campaign money from the industries which are invested in heavy energy consumption and extremes in consumer demand for energy. Quite literally, in Washington D.C., any attempt to save energy will eat into energy corporations profits, and therefore, the energy industry lobbyists will not allow their puppets in Congress to publicly discuss such real energy conservation topics where legislation or public policy is concerned.

As long as the myth of cheap energy is perpetuated by hook or crook, and as long as the energy industry controls the purse strings of political campaign financing, Americans will remain dependent on the most costly and energy inefficient policies which profiteering energy executives can devise. No nukes is entirely achievable in coming decades and at far, far lower costs than nuclear energy can achieve. But, such possibilities remain out of reach as long as the public remains ignorant of the alternatives and dependent upon the energy industry for its information about energy options.

No Nuclear power plants is no longer an extremist position in the wake of Japan's multi-reactor issues over this last week. To find an extremist position on energy, one has to look to the argument that the human race needs to wean itself off electrical grids entirely, if it is to withstand the inevitable coming of a direct solar storm which will send entire populations back into the 17th century with no electricity at all, no refrigeration, no pumps, no heating and cooling or light at night. I will hasten to add throughout human history, all new ideas from the toilet and man on the moon, to the light bulb and civil rights, were once considered extremist and outlandish ideas. 

Nuclear power is an extreme form of energy, deserving of extreme counter proposals which may negate profits for some, but, safeguard modern quality of life for generations to come.

Leave a comment

Type the characters you see in the picture above.


Monthly Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.25

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on March 17, 2011 11:20 PM.

Pandering Away America's Future was the previous entry in this blog.

GOP: Cut It, or Shut It. is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Offsite Links