IS THE "NUCLEAR RENAISSANCE" DEAD YET? By Harvey Wasserman
September 13, 2010 12:05 PM
As renewables plummet in cost, and private financing stays nil, the nuclear industry is desperate to gouge billions from Congress for loan guarantees to build new reactors. Thus far, citizen activism has stopped them. But the industry is pouring all it has into this fall's short session, yet again demanding massive new subsides to stay on life support.
Here's a lab report:
Soaring costs at Vogtle, the
Currently calculated to cost a sure-to-soar $14.5 billion, the Vogtle project got $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees from Obama in February. Citizen/taxpayer groups have since sued to see the details, which the administration is keeping secret. Georgia Power, which is building Vogtle, has already asked for another $1 billion rate increase.
Such soaring rates and slipping schedules defined the first generation of "too cheap to meter" reactors, which almost without exception came in years late and billions over budget. Costs of the two original Vogtle reactors jumped by 1,263% -- from an original $660 million budget to nearly $9 billion -- forcing up statewide rates more than 12%. Construction was promised for 7 years, but actually took 16.
The French giant AREVA's "new generation" projects in
John Rowe, the CEO of Exelon,
Because atomic energy can't compete with natural gas or renewables and efficiency, Exelon has withdrawn its application to build two reactors in
American reactor component makers are angry with
The horrifying aftermath of
On behalf of US corporations, the Obama Administration is demanding the Indian liability requirements be lifted. Especially in the wake of BP's Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the
In recent months serious emissions of tritium and other radioactive substances into the air and water have been found at
According to official records, the nuclear industry has spent at least $645 million in the past decade lobbying for taxpayer handouts. It got $18.5 billion in loan guarantees from the Bush Administration in 2005. Obama has asked for some $36 billion more. But so far a national grassroots movement has kept that from happening. The industry is demanding more from Congress, and will continue to do so as long as legislators need cash to run their campaigns.
But it is now clearer than ever that atomic energy cannot compete, that new construction means new rate hikes, that delays and cost overruns will always outstrip the industry's initial public assurances, and that after a half-century this technology still can't face the prospect of full liability for the disasters it might impose ... or even for the "minor" radiation it constantly emits.
Will this finally kill the much hyped "renaissance" of a Dark Age technology defined by quadruple failures in human health, global ecology, sound finance and increasingly shaky performance?
That will depend on the power of citizen activism. Nuclear power can't survive without protection from accident liability. Nor can new plants be built without huge public subsidies.
The longer those are stopped, the more likely a Solartopian transition to the only sources that can sustain us: increased efficiency and the green-powered birth of the Age of Renewables.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs