by Russell Lowes, March 12, 2008
. . .From Renewables and Energy Efficiency to
a Counter-Productive Industrial Web
Twelve Reasons to Oppose Nuclear Energy and Support a Green Energy Future
We have a complete set of energy solutions: solar cells, wind turbines, concentrating solar, ocean current and wave energy, energy efficiency, and the list goes on.(1) As these technologies mature, we can quickly reduce nuclear and coal usage and, in the future, cut oil and natural gas use.
The most environmentally and economically destructive sources of electricity should be reduced now, as other technologies emerge. The phase-out of nuclear and coal energy will reduce global warming while freeing up monies for renewables and efficiencies.
This list focuses on the nuclear energy option. Nuclear energy is being heavily promoted with millions of dollars in public relations budgets by the nuclear industry. This compilation will expose the nuclear myths.
California and Germany are two examples of how to make the switch toward a safe and effective energy future. In California, the per capita energy has gone down through a myriad of efficiency techniques.(2) In Germany, solar production has gone up radically, through a savvy system of support, which is turning Germany, hardly known for sunny days, into the top solar country. (3) See the graph below for the California example.(2)
Twelve Reasons to Oppose Nuclear Energy and to Support Renewables and Efficiencies.
1) Nuclear Energy is Too Expensive. In 2002, industry estimates for building reactors were in the $1500-2000 per kilowatt range.(4) Estimates crept up to $4000 by 2007.(5) Then, the Moody’s ratings firm projected around $5000.(6) Even more recently, Florida Power and Light estimated between $5300 and $8200 per kilowatt.(7) This amount of capital would cause nuclear energy to cost far more than the alternatives.
The record of nuclear reactor costs in the 1980s combined with general inflation would yield about $5000.(8) In the 1970s and 80s the average overrun for nuclear construction was more than 200%.(9) This record of massive overruns compared to roughly 50% for coal plants.(10)
At $5000/KW, 1000 reactors would cost $5 trillion. The capital payback would be $750 billion per year, nearing the $900 billion we spend on ALL energy in the U.S. annually. This would be an 83% increase in total energy cost, just to cover the capital expenditure of construction. This does not include fuel costs, operation and maintenance, nor the occasional accident or early retirement of a reactor. With this much going into nuclear energy alone, the money available for solar and other real solutions would dry up.
2) Expansion of Nuclear Energy Would Worsen Global Warming. Even if nuclear energy had the CO2 advantage the nuclear industry claims, building at least U.S. 1000 reactors would be required to significantly reduce global warming.(11) Over 20 years there would be one reactor completed weekly. The world has never seen anything near that kind of construction performance.(12)
Additionally, uranium resource depletion is occurring. Within about thirty years, the amount of energy required just to mine, mill and build reactors would exceed the CO2 levels of natural gas plants.(13) It would worsen thereafter, with possible reactor shut-downs, due to fuel availability problems.
3) Nuclear Energy Represents a Long-Term Negative Net Energy. Nuclear plants already have a long-term negative net energy and CO2 level higher than fossil fuels, if you count the energy to manage the waste over the legally required one million years.
4) The Most Stripping of our Public Lands through Mining Would Happen with Nuclear Energy. With ore quality diminishing, mining levels would skyrocket. To illustrate, when we have to resort to mining granite for uranium, the weight of ore would equal fifty times the weight of coal per kilowatt-hour.(14)
5) High and Permanent Government Subsidy Is Required. Nuclear energy is too risky for investment without its insurance renewed by Congress (the Price-Anderson Act, 1957). The property cost of a major accident could cap half a trillion dollars.(15) Additional medical costs are waived by the Act. The industry has said if it does not get the government to guarantee loans, it will not build any reactors.(16)
6) Unacceptable Accident Potential Persists. Analysis has put the chance of at least three meltdowns at 50% if the world opts for the large number of 2500 nuclear reactors. The ecological and economical impact of one meltdown would dwarf the impact of Hurricane Katrina, with thousands of years of radiological damage.(17)
7) National Security Is Compromised. After the September 11 attacks, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said reactors could withstand impact of a 747. They have since retracted this statement.(18) This same terrorist network may target a nuclear reactor in the future. Additionally, every hot on-site reactor spent-fuel pool is a perfect terrorist target, with waste that would melt down from such an impact. These targets are not reasonably protected.
8) Nuclear Energy Has the Most Water Usage. It has lower thermal efficiency compared to fossil-fuel, at 32%, compared to 40% for coal, and 45% for natural gas. Nuclear energy requires more water for cooling. The Palo Verde plant, 35 miles upwind of Phoenix, requires about 40% the water of a city with a half-million people, like Tucson, Arizona, or 150,000 acre feet of annual water use.(19)
9) Too Much Radiation Is Produced. Governmental studies conclude that there is no additional safe level of radiation. Radiative gas is released into the air at the reactor site, routinely, increasing cancer risk.(20)
10) Million-Year Waste Legacy Will Burden Society. The EPA had a 10,000 year waste management requirement, until the courts replaced it with a 1,000,000 year time line.(21) Just seven pounds of Plutonium-239, which has a half life of about 25 thousand years, is enough for a nuclear bomb.
11) Civil Liberties Would Diminish. With an increase terrorist threat to a highly vulnerable and risky system in place, the pressure on governments to subdue civil liberties will always be there with nuclear energy.
12) Finally, Other Options are Better. U.S. wind energy increased 45% last year, with over five nuclear reactors’ worth of capacity added.(22) With Texas recently gaining the lead, one Texan said that Texas will never lose this lead to any other state in the nation. We need bold strides like this.
Americans are far more resourceful than to think that we have to return to an over-subsidized outdated electricity option like nuclear energy. We need to use our limited energy dollars for real solutions that work! Support renewables and efficiencies instead of nuclear energy.
Russell J. Lowes, Research Director at SafeEnergyAnalyst.org 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,” released in 1979. The book played a principal part in the cancellation of two additional reactors at this plant.
1) Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D., Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, “Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free, A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy,” 2007, at http://www.ieer.org/carbonfree/
2) “OnEarth” Newsletter, National Resources Defense Council, Spring 2006, http://www.nrdc.org/onearth/06spr/ca1.asp#
3) Reiner Gaertner, “Germany Embraces the Sun,” Wired, September1, 2007, http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2001/07/45056?currentPage=1
4) For example, The Future of Nuclear Power, An Interdisciplinary MIT Study, 2003.
5) Tulsa World, “AEP Not Interested in Nuclear Plants,” 9/1/07.
6) SNLi, “Moody's Sees High Risk in Building New Nuclear Generation Capacity,” 10/10/07.
7) Curtis Morgan, Miami Herald, “Turkey Point: FPL Asks Panel to Allow Two More Nuclear Reactors,” 1/31/08, http://www.miamiherald.com/
8) Brice Smith, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Insurmountable Risks: The Dangers of Using Nuclear Power to Combat Global Climate Change, 2006, p. 8. http://www.ieer.org/reports/insurmountablerisks/
For inflation calculate, see http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl
9) Energy Information Administration, An Analysis of Nuclear Power Plant Construction Costs, DOE/EAI-0485, p. 18. Also, EIA, Monthly Energy Review, August 1994
10) Charles Komanoff, Power Plant Cost Escalation, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1981, page 2. Note: a range of 33 to 68% for coal overruns, averages to about 50%.
11) Brice Smith book.
13) David Fleming, The Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy, a Life Cycle In Trouble,” summary/Nuclear Energy In Brief, 2007, http://www.nirs.org/climate/background/leanguidetonuclearenergy.pdf
14) See reports at www.stormsmith.nl, updated periodically.
15) U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Sandia Labs, Impact of a Meltdown at Nuclear Plant, Consequences of Reactor Accident (CRAC-2) Report, 1982.
16) Dan Morse, Washington Post, “Money Matters in Reactor Project Debate; Financing, Rather Than Safety, Appears to Be Key Factor in Whether Plans Proceed,” 9/5/07, p. B-5.
17) Brice Smith report.
18) Bill Brubaker, Washington Post, “Nuclear Agency: Air Defenses Impractical,” 1/29/07.
19) Arizona Nuclear Power Project, "Use of Effluent Water at Palo Verde," communication from ANPP to Maricopa Association of Governments, November 17, 1977. See also, http://www.aps.com/general_info/AboutAPS_18.html See also, University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center, Water Resource Availability for the Tucson Metropolitan Area, 2006. http://ag.arizona.edu/azwater/presentations/Megdal.az.water.resource.avail.for.tucson.pdf
20) National Academy of Sciences, Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation May Cause Harm, Press Release, 6/29/05. Also see: U.S. NRC Effluent Database for Nuclear Power Plants, 2004
http://www.reirs.com/effluent/EDB_rptLicenseeReleaseSummary.asp (Some navigation required.)
21) Ascribe, The Public Interest Newswire, “Managing Nuclear Wastes for the Millennia,” 1/7/07.
22) American Wind Energy Association, “Installed U.S. Wind Power Capacity Surged 45% in 2007: American Wind Energy Association Market Report” Press Release at: