Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Big Lie About Nuclear Power

Just finished my appearance on CleanSkiesTV. (Looking at the screen cap, I'm reminded that my head looks like an orange on a toothpick.) It's funny how their website goes to such great lengths to emphasize their objectivity, then you get on and they're like, "Renewables are teh suck! Long live natural gas!"

I kid. Actually, I thought their reporting on natural gas this morning was pretty objective. It was their coverage of nuclear power that was hard to swallow. According to one reporter, the biggest obstacles to nuclear power are "government bureaucracy and how to deal with the nuclear waste."

Really? I thought the biggest obstacle to building new nuclear power plants was that it's wicked expensive.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) this week proposed instructing utilities to build 100 brand-new nuclear power plants. As Grist reports:

A study released last month [PDF] by economist Mark Cooper, senior fellow at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School, found that building and operating 100 new nuclear reactors would cost $1.9 trillion to $4.1 trillion more over the life of the reactors than would generating the same electricity from renewables and energy efficiency. And taxpayers would have to foot the bill for loan guarantees for the nuclear industry, as the private sector has been unwilling to make big investments in the sector.
Sen. Alexander's nuclear unfunded mandate would force utilities across the country to jack up rates to pay for those plants. As much as Republicans cry socialism at the tiniest increase in tax rates, they seem to have absolutely no problem with skyrocketing electricity rates.

And from a political point of view, why not? People tend to blame high electricity rates on their utilities. But they blame high taxes on politicians. And having to take a leadership role to explain why something unpopular is needed is what spineless elected officials fear most.

So having to explain to voters that while a bill like the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act might cause their rates to go up a bit but their bills to go down thanks to massive efficiency gains ... well, that's a bit much to ask of Sen. Alexander.

Photo courtesy Public Citizen
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