At some point you just have to ask yourself, what is it that these politicians are getting to push nuclear energy so hard?
Last week, House Republicans called for a hundred new nuclear power plants to be built in the next two decades. They say that this is part of the legislation they’re backing because it’s better than what the Democrats are offering.
Now I’m not saying the Democrats have submitted some amazingly stellar plan. There are certainly some issues there too. Most of which can be traced to the myth of clean coal and Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s attachment to nuclear. But 100 new nuclear power plants in 20 years? Really?!!!
Let’s put this in perspective, shall we?
These guys are basically talking about building an average of five new nuclear power plants a year, for the next 20 years. I guess they missed the memo on how long it takes to actually build one.
There are all kinds of numbers floating around on this. Some nuclear advocates will tell you it’ll only take you a couple of years. Some anti-nuclear types will tell you it could take up to 25 years. Both are likely highly exaggerated. So for our purposes we’ll look to Florida Power & Light (FPL), which currently has two nuclear power plants in operation, and in April, 2008, received final approval from the Florida Public Service Commission for two additional nuclear facilities (Turkey Point Units 6 & 7) at its existing Turkey Point complex.
According to FPL, from beginning to end, the siting, licensing and construction of Turkey Point Unit 6 could be completed in 2018 – or in about 9 years. The estimated completion year for Turkey Point Unit 7 is 2020.
And we’re supposed to believe we can throw up 5 new ones every year – starting now? Even if you support integrating more nuclear into our domestic energy infrastructure, you’d have to be out of your mind – or getting paid a hell of a lot of money by the nuclear industry – to believe that we’re going to build 100 new nuclear power plants in 20 years.
But let’s just assume for a moment, they could pull it off. I don’t know, maybe they found some magic beans and this became doable. What happens to those 100 nuclear power plants when they need to be decommissioned?
According to a new Associated Press investigation, the companies that own nearly half of the nation’s nuclear reactors today, have not set aside enough money to dismantle them. Apparently, the investment funds that were supposed to pay for shutting these things down have lost $4.4 billion in a brutal market meltdown. As a result, some may end up sitting idle for decades. For the sake of national security and environmental sustainability, this is not a good thing.
So far, 19 nuclear power plant owners have won approval to idle their reactors for as long as 60 years. They’re hoping that this will allow enough time for their investments to recover from this past year’s economic implosion, thereby providing the necessary funding to dismantle the plants at a later time.
Interesting how all these folks who tell us that nuclear is safe don’t seem to be in a rush to preface that claim with, “as long as we don’t lose any of the money we’ll need to properly dismantle the power plants when it’s time.” My friends, letting nuclear power plants sit for six decades while they try to scrape up enough coin to dismantle them is not safe! That alone should make any lawmaker question the safety of integrating more nuclear. And it should make us question the motives of those who ignore this little piece of very important information.
And don’t even get me started on the amount of money we’re talking about here either. We’re all well aware of the cost prohibitive nature of nuclear. But it could actually be even worse than expected. The Associated Press investigation noted that estimates for dismantling costs have climbed by about $4.6 billion over the past two years due to rising labor and energy costs. That’s billion…with a “B.”
Now in all fairness, when these power plants get mothballed, the radioactive fuel is removed from the reactor and is stored in dry casks on the power plant’s property. But some are concerned that in 60 years, these utilities may not even exist. What happens then? I’d put my money on them just walking away, leaving the taxpayers to pick up the tab. And of course, that’s exactly what we need to do – pay more taxes on unsustainable power generation. Clearly all the subsidies we’ve been shelling out for oil hasn’t been enough to fire us up!