The following is a posting by Guest Author Russell Lowes:
The media the Southeastern U.S. is pushing the resurgence of nuclear power as the solution to America's energy future quite uncritically. That may be because the epicenter for the new nuclear power industry is the old south, stretching from the Carolinas to Florida and Texas. The "new" vision for a nuclear-powered America is a re-hash of President Nixon’s plan for 1000 nuclear power plants, demonstrated by the promotional mantra the Bushies have rolled out:
"We need a thousand nukes."
While the media is hopping in Dixie, the media here in Arizona are nearly mute on this issue. Why? It could be because Arizona's only commercial nuclear plant has the worst U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety record in the country. It may be that John McCain wants to make it a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, and major media outlets here aren't willing to piss in his well. Or it could be because the conglomerates who own our media are giving Arizona Public Service, the manager of Palo Verde, the largest nuke in the nation (The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station has three reactors, with a total of 3810 megawatts output), time to get its financial house in order.
There is a lot of money at stake in reawakening the atomic power industry. Trillions, to be somewhat exact. Tens of them, to be still more exact. The industrial giants who stand to profit from a revivified nuclear power industry are seeking to bring the industry back from the economic grave it has mouldered in since the 1980s. Their aspirations indicate that, just as the planners of Iraq failed to internalize the lessons of Vietnam, nuclear industry boosters have failed to understand the reasons why the industry died the first time.
Let's examine the push for reawakening the nuclear industry through a very personal analysis. What might it do to you and I for nuclear energy to once again become a significant part of America's energy infrastructure?
Mortgage Tax Credit? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Mortgage Credit...
The Bush Administration wants the U.S. to build 1000 reactors. The last program, which built only 100 reactors, turned out to be an economic disaster, with billions and billions of dollars worth of nuclear plants canceled and more operating at steep subsidies. That orgy of reactor building left the ratepayers in those service areas, and taxpayers throughout America, under a heavy debt load to pay for the excesses of the power companies.
The atomic energy industry and the federal government are up to their old tricks again, but are even more audacious since they can count on the acquiescence and cooperation of an Administration that could care less about the public good. The industry and their enablers in this Administration are promising that it will be less expensive to build plants in the future than it was in the 1980s, knowing full well that construction cost overruns in the industry will once again be on the order of hundreds of percent, just as they were in the 1970s and 1980s.
Their scheme to pocket trillions in publicly subsidized construction costs threatens to cost you more than you save as a consequence of the tax credit for interest payments on your mortgage. Assuming you own, or are going to own a house, and your interest payments are a very modest $800 per month, or $9600 per year, the cost to you personally as a taxpayer to underwrite this nuclear building boom will far outstrip the tax savings homeownership affords you. If your mortgage is costing you $9600 per year in interest, the tax savings would likely be 20% of that, or $1920: call it $2,000 for simplicity.
One thousand atomic energy plants would cost you, and every other taxpayer, well over $2,000 per year. Those 1000 reactors would cost $5 trillion, conservatively. There is no way that ratepayers are going to be able to afford to finance this capital outlay through bonds or rate hikes, so the U.S. Government will have to step in to underwrite the program. When you add to the $5 trillion construction all the interest cost, taxes, insurance, the construction capital of these plants will cost well over $22.5 trillion over the next 40 years. If America’s average population during this time is 350 million people, the cost per person per year will be at least $2,143 per person per year. This is just for capital payback.Throw in the fuel cost, operation and maintenance and waste costs and you have trillions more to give away to the nuclear industry. Say goodbye to your home mortgage tax credit. With $2,143 per person per year going toward an outdated nuclear energy program, there may not be much money left for mortgage interest write-offs, or for sane energy options. And perhaps we can also forget any hope to afford national health care, serious investments in our educational system, public transportation, or any badly needed new government initiatives. Medicare, Social Security, and benefits for our armed services personnel could even be on the block to make room in the budget for such a big ticket item as Bush's 1000 new nukes.
We can't afford this Administration's pipe-dream to line the pockets of another favored industry. The alternative to such lightheaded thinking is to invest in the proven technologies of energy efficiencies, renewable power sources, while reducing our use of fossil fuels. Only one sixth of the power supplied in this country is supplied as electricity. The rest is supplied by car engines, space heating with gas, combined cycle heat production, etc. With only one sixth of our energy in electricity, and $750 billion per year going to supply less than one half of that sixth (i.e., less than one twelfth), how will we be able to afford development of other energy resources? We simply won’t. America's current total energy costs, including electrical generation and every other form of energy use, are about $900 billion per year. These “public servants” want to us to spend another $750 billion per year for 30 years, just to supply less than 8% of our total energy needs. Obviously, it will impossible for ratepayers to finance these sorts of outlays, to imagine that such a thing is even possible without a full-scale consumer revolt is absurd. Looked at in this bottom line fashion, the idea of supplying America's future energy needs with nukes just doesn't pencil out.
you might guess, the backers of this multi-trillion dollar plan have a
massive misinformation campaign. Pollution on the web is frequently
found. So where do you go for decent information on nuclear energy?
Here are some high-quality website addresses to browse, for starters:
Just What is the Value of $750 Billion Per Year?
-- The total annual energy budget of the U.S. is about 7% of GDP, or roughly $900 Billion per year.
-- This $750 billion is equal to 6% of the total $13 trillion 2006 Gross Domestic Product.
-- 128% of $586 billion Social Security budget for 2006
-- 179% of the $419 billion U.S. Department of Defense budget for 2006
-- 13 times of the $56 billion U.S. Department of Education budget for 2006
-- The war in Iraq is expected by some to cost $1.5 trillion by the time it is completed, IF it is completed relatively soon. This is two years of construction capital payback for 1000 nukes. If these figures pan out, building 1000 nukes will be like funding 15 Iraq wars over 30 years.
On a final note, if each 8% of our energy cost $750 billion per year (not to mention the extras like fuel cost), the dollars for energy in America would be roughly $9.4 TRILLION per year, instead of the current $900 billion we spend on energy.
Russell J. Lowes, a financial management consultant and the Research Director for Power Plant Analysts, is the primary author of a book on the nation’s largest nuclear plant upwind of Phoenix, “Energy Options for the Southwest, Part I, Nuclear and Coal Power." The book played a principal part in the cancellation of two additional reactors at the Palo Verde plant. He can be reached at email@example.com
With how energy needs are changing learning about Earth's ecology as a child is becoming as important as doing some math worksheets to learn Algebra or even just coloring and having fun with coloring pages to keep the learning process going.