[Marxism] EPW Editorial

David Walters dave.walters at comcast.net
Mon Aug 20 23:52:21 MDT 2007

Greetings. I think it was the way Sukla formatted his posts that was 
partially to blame. Often if was hard for me to tell who was saying what 
to whom.

I suspect, additionally, that we will have run the course of this 
particular discussion on this list as we may be boring to death the list 
members over technical and, financial issues. We will see.

OK, so, the situation in the US is somewhat different. It's not China 
which appears to be building dozens of new plants, or Russia which has 
implemented it's two per year for the next 20 years. I couldn't even 
give you if in these countries it's private or public funding since 
there appears to be so much of both. So, for the moment I will stick to 
the US.

There are several plants that were in the process of being constructed 
when all the air went out of the nuclear industry in 1980s. One of these 
was finished recently (it was almost completed in any event) and went on 
line, giving the US now 104 NPPs. A few more in this condition have also 
started work to complete them. None of these are in the 32 proposed new 
builds that is often in the news but one has applied for, but not yet 
received, a construction license. Additionally, about 2/5ths of the 
entire US nuclear fleet had been relicensed for another 20 years with 
none being turned down. Lastly, 4,000 MWs of turbine/generator upgrades 
has occurred on current NPPs which is equivalent to adding 4 large NPPs 
without building any new ones.

The WNA has most of this information http://www.world-nuclear.org/ on a 
country by country by country basis, US included. They also update each 
country's page monthly as new news comes in.

So let me just focus on the mostly private operated plants in the US. 
These are the commercial plants, not the US owned military reactors 
designed to produced weapons grade plutonium. A whole other discussion.

It is true that all plants (everywhere in the world) operate "under the 
protection of the gov't". Thank goodness yes? They are in the US 
"regulated", extensively, exhaustively, and all 104 are more or less 
regulated equally by our Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

As for "special subsidies"…well, yes, but we should be a bit more 
specific, Laurent, to see what is what.

The whole industry was begat by the military anyway. All the first 
generation reactors were spin offs from the submarine world, even though 
they were somewhat different. So, sure, that's a "historical subsidy" 
that's sort of written into the books. It counts little for today's 
economics of NP except as 'socially invested capital'.

For example, you mention gov't paying for special police contingents 
when moving plutonium. Well, they don't actually move plutonium, in 
fact, they don't move anything, really as this is the whole debate. 
Ralph Nader diplayed some amazing ignorance when in Counterpunch he 
stated you have "count the transportation costs" of moving fuel to NPPs 
as part of the carbon expenditure of NP. Ha! The move about 3 truck 
loads every year and a half or two. This is one of the major problems 
with spokespersons for the the anti-nuclear movement. Anyway, the spent 
fuel mostly just sits at nuclear power plants. Doesn't actually go anywhere.

You mention that private ownership is worse because it creates profits 
which leaves less for waste management. But…actually not. This is one of 
the key differences between, say, the US and the UK. In the US a small 
amount of each electrical bill has been set aside for waste management. 
In fact, the boondoggle at Yucca Mountain has actually been paid for by 
the nuclear industry, not tax dollars even though its routed through 
Congress. The fund was set up decades ago for nuclear decommissioning. 
Britain never did this so cleanups are now all the gov't's responsibility.

This is an important point. Every aspect, bar none, of the nuclear fuel 
cycle is not only regulated but paid for by the industry (much recovered 
through this small part of the customers electric bill). Only the 
nuclear industry is responsible for all clean up, oversight, disposal 
and consequences of it's waste. No fossil fuel is required to do this. 
In other words, the deaths and health care of hundreds or thousands of 
people caused by environmental damage and long term consequences of 
burning of fossil fuel is no longer the responsibility of the utilities 
and fossil fuel companies once the pollution leaves the plant. Not a 
dime unless they exceed limits. Soot and micro-partials are not limited, 
so they are not even regulated except in local cases.

So, all the soot put into the air, the radiation and mercury put into 
the environment from coal, all the hundreds of millions of tons of 
carbon blown into the atmosphere, not a word, by anyone really. Now, I 
know you are not for this and don't approve. But try to see my side of 
this. I think nuclear energy is cheaper, safer and overall more human 
friendly than fossil. But when we hear "cost comparisons" everything I 
mentioned about nuclear is considered in the life-cycle of the 
technology, NONE of this is included in the life-cycle costs of fossil. 
This is why these studies are somewhat (meaning a LOT) slanted. Coal ash 
is so radioactive that the Chinese have set up a pilot plant to mine the 
damn stuff! Scares me. How about you?

I find this very disconcerting that environmentalists of the 
anti-nuclear persuasion scream about a few hundred gallons of water 
dumped into the Sea of Japan with a radioactive count of about 12 
glasses of orange juice, yet 100,000's of thousands of people are dying 
right now and generally, not a peep.

Right now, ALL sources of power, with exception of solar, come in either 
at general wholesale prices or slightly below it, in other words, I can 
prove that some nuclear might come in at, say, $60.00 a megawatt hour, 
or, not to hard to find, unsubsidized wind (which all of it is in the US 
via tax breaks, like the proposed tax breaks for new nuclear) comes in 
the same or higher. I can find nuclear coming in at $17.00 a megawatt 
hour because that is what it actually costs the nuclear industry in the 
US to break even right now according their own operating and maintenance 
balance sheets. I can explain what appears to be a very low number in 
another post if you want and why nuclear in the US, right now, is the 
cheapest base load power source out there.

All that aside, none of the economics of, say, Wind or Nuclear or even 
some Gas would bankrupt society, not really. So, I would argue that 
society ought to be building a lot more NPPs, by a factor of about 10, 
in the US. They should just build them, and, my preference, for the 
state to operate them. The US needs about 600 not the small number of 
104 it has now.

The arguments that *most* environmentalists give for solar and wind: 
that we HAVE TO pay higher costs for these energy sources because *we 
simply need to!*, on a certain level is true. Society has to make this 
choice, regardless of the finances, I just think we would be far better 
off if we built nuclear against what is arguable the limited value of 
solar and wind.

Nuclear exist because the gov'ts want it. You state this. True. They 
want it because it is reliable, cheap and it meets ALL their carbon 
limitation needs. Nothing else does. It's just common sense.


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