[Marxism] EPW Editorial
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
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
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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