Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

President Obama & Nuclear Power

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President Obama yesterday announced his administration’s plan to provide $8 Billion in loan guarantees for a new nuclear power plant.  There are a number of reasons why this is bad policy.

First, it reinforces the Cons’ frame that nuclear power is more viable than solar or wind.   President Obama has tried to re-couch nuclear power as “green”, but it’s not.  Lifetime CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas pollution is much higher for nuclear power than it is for either solar or wind.  How does the fuel come into being?  By collecting the sun or harnessing the wind?  No, by mining it.  Then enriching it.  What about the waste?  States currently bicker over untold tons of waste that was generated prior to this century.  Nuclear’s dirty little secret is that waste sits around and is polluting our air and water today.  In typical fashion, proponents want to generate more without dealing with what to do with what we’ve already got.  And, even the most efficient nuclear plant in engineers’ imaginations have to generate some amount of waste.

Second, there’s more reason than pollution that more nuclear power plants haven’t been built in the U.S. in the last generation.  It’s a very lousy business proposition.  It takes billions and billions of dollars to build just one plant.  Private insurers are currently unwilling to back up the risks involved with constructing one.  Do you think the government wastes money and can’t control budgets?  Try private nuclear power plants.  Every one that’s been proposed in recent years has run into doubling and tripling costs.  Utility commissions can’t tell the public what they’ll actually cost, because quite frankly they don’t know.  Financing has fallen short on project after project.  If you want another federal government boondoggle, throw your support behind this plan.  How many billions of dollars will it cost to build just one nuclear power plant?  The Obama administration can’t tell you with any more certainty than their industry counterparts.

How about shifting those loan guarantees to renewable energy projects?  How about shifting them to projects to rebuild the transmission system in this country, which is decades overdue for an overhaul?  The transmission system is the vital portion of our electricity system that could and will deliver renewable energy from its source to its destination.  There is thousands of times more potential renewable energy currently available today than we could possibly use.  The key is delivering that power.  What is the Obama administration proposing to do for solar and wind?  Oh yeah, $123 million for DoE’s wind program, or 1.5% the amount Obama wants guaranteed just in this announcement.  Nothing for a national electricity standard.

These are half-measures, at best, President Obama.  I know you and your administration understands the energy and climate crises this country faces.  Nuclear power isn’t the answer.  A transmission system and renewable energy are the answers.

Cross-posted at SquareState.

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