Why Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer to Global Warming

Christian Parenti makes a case that nuclear power isn't economical enough to solve our fossil fuel energy crisis.

...many desperate Greens now embrace nukes.

Economics will determine the future of atomic power—or rather, already have. And here is the takeaway: there will be no nuclear future.

But the new fleet of reactors has not been built and won’t be, because Wall Street won’t fund them. The only way nukes get built is with real or de facto socialism.The public sector has to pick up the tab, either during construction or after the fact, when bankrupt utilities get bailed out.

Work has finally begun on a two-reactor plant in Georgia. ...only because the utility, operating on a cost-plus basis, can pass on to rate payers all of its expense overruns. This is because the Southeast power market was the only U.S. region never deregulated.

In Western Europe, nuclear economics are also a mess.Only two “Generation III+” reactors are under construction. The plant closest to completion is the 1,600-megawatt European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) at Olkiluoto 3 in Finland. It was scheduled to take four years and cost about $5 billion. But now construction will take at least eight years and is 68 percent over budget, at a projected final cost of $8.4 billion.

An authoritative study by the investment bank Lazard Ltd. found that wind beat nuclear and that nuclear essentially tied with solar. But wind and solar, being simple and safe, are coming on line faster. Another advantage wind and solar have is that capacity can be added bit by bit; a wind farm can have more or less turbines without scuttling the whole project. As economies of scale are created within the alternative energy supply chains and the construction process becomes more efficient, prices continue to drop. Meanwhile, the cost of stalled nukes moves upward. [emphasis mine]


I hope this is right, because I see nuclear power plants as terrifying accidents waiting to happen. Had the Japanese built wind, solar, or tidal alternatives to the Fukushima Daiichi complex, radiation wouldn't be continually contaminating Pacific ocean food chains and their groundwater. Nor would we be reading about new instabilities in breached melted down reactors. The environment of the entire planet would be safer right now had Japan never gone nuclear. We wouldn't be finding radiation in streams in the US Northeast. With climate destabilization-caused river flooding, rising tides and more intense storms, additional global contamination events become more likely.

Tags: nuclear power

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Replies to This Discussion

And we can't forget conservation, especially with all the wasted energy currently taking place. Another is battery development to store energy. These technologies have a real future, if we train up the scientists and technical people to carry on the research and development. There is a profound need to keep creationism out of science classrooms. 

From the end of the Great Depression and WW II, our prosperity has grown so that a working person could afford a home, car, and chicken in the pot and more often than every Sunday. Subsidized nuclear came on the scene as soon as peaceful use of nuclear could be invented.
Conglomeration of businesses into BIG businesses made it harder for small businesses and wage earners to afford goods and services as production started going off shore. Oh how we loved those BIG stores with all their cheap merchandise produced in countries with low wages, low production costs, and no safety regulations. 

Then we started realizing that we had unlimited cheap, foreign made products, unemployment rose and demand was met by using that clever device, the credit card. Huge credit accounts going unpaid made the whole house of cards fail ... and some bright functionary said we need "austerity"!

AUSTERITY! That is a joke, right? No, we need a process that empowers citizens to earn a living wage, have purchasing power, and protection from illegal and immoral banking and financial institution practices.

One way to do that is to put a great emphasis on non-nuclear, sustainable, renewable energy. Unemployed space age scientists are nearing retirement age if not past it. There are young bright minds in colleges and universities training to become hotshots in banking who could be persuaded to turn to science and technology. 

We squandered our railroad industry, but costs for shipping and getting huge trailer-trucks off auto highways would provide a parallel transportation system. Lost opportunity of railroading cannot be reclaimed without major restorations, even of the rail lines ... especially the rail lines.

Obama, the Democratic and Republican parties are still closely tied to petroleum, as is the public. Can you imagine even saying we need to get off oil?! There would be an outcry and a run to the bottom by at least half of our voters.      

One thing that needs to be done immediately is to challenge distortions, delusions and untruths with reality checks. 

Ok .. so my question would be ... what would make a good alternative energy source?

Gee, I wish I had a technical mind or scientific one. I enjoy reading about people who discovered or invented electricity or whatever. I remember learning of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in August 1945 and then in July 1946 I watched the bomb test on Bikini Atoll on a nine-inch TV set. WOW such energy! Given the advances in science and technology, I am confident that air, water, soil, and fire will yield some form of energy, whether it is atomic power, batteries to store electricity from hydroelectricity, biomas, compressed natural gas, geothermal, nuclear power, radiant energy, solar power, tidal power, wave action, or wind power.

I am going to try to create a solar power source for a spraying birdbath this summer. That is about as much as I am capable.  

This article is somewhat misleading in a few ways, the most serious omission is LFTR and MSR technology. If you want best-case; safe, green and cheap -> that's the best bet. It saddens me that this isn't common knowledge almost as much as the fact that atheists are a minority demographic, …and for the same reason; ignorance.

If it were well funded, it would probably just be a decade away, …it's barely even known about.

Yes, these are "nuclear reactors", but not the scary kind.

 liquid fluoride thorium reactor (acronym LFTR; spoken as lifter)

MSR, I give up

OK, inform us or refer us to some reading material that non tech folks can understand, please. 

The first one is right, the second is Molten Salt Reactor. Wikipedia is a good start, a better understanding is found in the cited sources on the pages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_fluoride_thorium_reactor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten_salt_reactor

Fusion is the ultimate safe-clean energy source, ...another under-funded path. 

Another good read for those who read the entire article linked in the OP.

Make sure you actually know what it is you fear, that's all I'm saying, be a skeptic -> go by actual facts, the big picture, the whole picture …not spin and confirmation bias.

That is what I am trying to do. Thanks for the leads. Get back to you. 

Well, there is certainly a lot to know about fusion and I am just beginning. I've created a new topic with your references and attributed you. 

Can you help me sort out the fallacies as they show up? 

I've reconsidered my position on one type of nuclear power plant, the Pebble Bed reactor. They might prove useful in replacing fossil fuel.

How to make a nuclear reactor that can't have a meltdown

The advantages are they can't melt down, they produce no greenhouse gases and their fuel can't be processed to make weapons. They also produce hydrogen as a byproduct, but I don't know if it's pure enough for use in fuel cells. The hydrogen needed for fuel cells must be 99.999% pure. The disadvantage is they have only 1/30 the power density of other reactors.

Instead of fuel rods, fuel is contained inside of pebbles.

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