Archive for January, 2012

Jan
13
    
Occupy – Nuclear Power

NUCLEAR POWER: AN IDEA WHOSE TIME IS OVER

Occupy is protesting the inequities that come from socializing risk onto the 99% and privatizing profits for the 1%. The collapse of housing and financial markets is a good example.

Nuclear power is another case of how the public pays for energy choices that favor corporate profits and control. Public dollars concentrate profits to nuclear corporations, warping energy choices to support centralized, capital intensive electric generation. Decentralized renewables and energy efficiency lose out.

THE 50-YEAR NUCLEAR POWER BAILOUT

Astonishingly, it would have been cheaper to buy electricity on the open market and give it away, than to have built and operated the 104 privately owned U.S. nuclear power reactors! Since 1960, public subsidies to nuclear power companies are worth more than all the electric power their reactors generate.

The public props up the nuclear power industry through a complex mesh of:

Ø Federal loan guarantees, now at $18.5 billion; Pres. Obama wants to raise them to $54 billion,
Ø Accelerated depreciation for fuel and construction,
Ø Ratepayers footing the bills for construction work before electricity is generated,
Ø Tax abatements,
Ø Long term operating costs for high level waste storage and reactor decommissioning,
Ø Hidden costs of nuclear proliferation and necessarily heavy reactor security,
Ø Limitations on disaster liability.

PUBLIC RISK, PRIVATE PROFIT. The Price Anderson Act of 1957 (extended to 2025) was enacted to protect the fledgling privately owned nuclear industry “against potentially enormous liability claims in the event of a nuclear accident.”

Ø First, members of the public—homeowners, businesses— cannot get nuclear disaster insurance.
Ø Insurance is limited to $300,000 per reactor issued by CT-based American Nuclear Insurers (ANI).
Ø More extensive damages at any reactor are to be covered from a common pot every owner funds
Ø The pot is about $11.6 billion, much too small considering:

  • US government studies show potential losses could rise as high as $560 billion;
  • The catastrophe at Chernobyl (different from US reactor models), cost about $350 billion;
  • The disaster at Fukushima Daiichi (same models and ages as the VT Yankee, Indian Point, and Pilgrim reactors) could cost as much as $130 billion by Japanese government estimates.

In 2001, ANI’s senior vice president told Congress that without Price Anderson, the nuclear industry cannot be insured, so the industry itself is not viable without this massive liability cap.

JOBS FROM CONSERVATION AND SAFE RENEWABLES. No other energy source enjoys this colossal and market-distorting support of public dollars. Millions of jobs can be created by opting for decentralized renewables and energy efficiency, choices that can provide safe, reliable energy.

Ø For every $1 million invested, solar, wind, and a smart electric grid create 14.25 jobs; nuclear: 4.2.
Ø An all-out WPA-type energy efficiency program can provide massive employment. Rather than perpetuating the wartime economy, give soldiers and veterans nail guns and training to use them.
Ø Replacing energy from a nuclear reactor (cost $41 billion; 2,400 jobs) by spending the same amount on retrofitting 3.2 million homes would create 440,000 jobs.
Ø Conserving energy in every building in the US would pull the US out of this economic depression. We would save half the energy we use, and put ourselves firmly on the road to true energy security.

SOURCES: Union of Concerned Scientists (www.ucsusa.org); Nuclear Information and Resource Service (www.nirs.org); Beyond Nuclear (www.beyondnuclear.org); the Cato Institute (www.cato.org); Political Economy Research Institute (www.peri.umass.edu), Office for Sustainability, Southern NH University (https://www.snhu.edu/9474.asp ); Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School (environmentallaw.vermontlaw.edu).

Link to Occupy-Nuclear Power