More Magical Thinking: Nuclear Power Economics

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Demystifying Nuclear Power
More Magical Thinking: Nuclear Power Economics

By Maggie Gundersen

Beginning in the 1950s, the United States nuclear power aficionados have attempted to build 250 atomic power reactors. Of those planned, purchased, or constructed reactors, 130 were canceled before they produced any electricity, 20 more have been closed for mechanical failures, defects due to aging components, or simply because they were no longer financially profitable for the corporations that owned them. Now, in 2017, many of the remaining 99 operating reactors or the nuclear power corporations that own them are seeking taxpayer-funded financial bailouts from the states in which they operate.

Never, and I repeat never, has a nuclear power plant been designed, built, and begun generating electricity on time and within budget. 


AP 1000 Under Construction

Yet, nuclear power proponents would have you believe that the atomic power future will somehow be different than it has been for more than 60 years! Five years ago, the nuclear power industry was touting the future of an allegedly new and more modern reactor design called the AP1000. In actuality, constructing the AP1000 design recently bankrupted the largest nuclear firm in the world: Westinghouse Corp. The bankruptcy has left two major utilities with reactors that are only half-way finished, years behind schedule, and billions of dollars over budget – leaving utility ratepayers stuck holding the empty bag.

You would think that after 60 years of design and engineering failures, the nuclear power proponents might get the message and move on to newer cost effective and more environmentally compatible means of generating electricity. But no, true to form, nuclear zealots are focusing their dreams on a new type reactor design called a small modular reactor or SMR. Even though such a reactor has never been designed, built, or generated electricity, pro-nuclear crusaders claim that by 2030 the first SMR will produce economical nuclear power for the first time in history. You too may ultimately choose to have one in your backyard or neighborhood, that is unless you are concerned about the time lapses, the terrorist attraction of such a device, or the environmental nightmare of thousands of mini-Chernobyls situated all over the U.S. countryside.

Really, let’s get this straight. Nuclear power missionaries expect that Global Climate Change will simply take a 15-year hiatus, while their corporations use our tax and ratepayer dollars to build the first of yet another new atomic power plant design.

All the while, sustainable energy sources, new battery systems, and simple energy conservation are already producing much cheaper energy alternatives! Investing in a 15-year plan to build yet another nuclear pipedream will mean the money that could be invested in building cheaper, and more environmentally sane renewable and sustainable sources of making electricity will instead be poured into extraordinarily expensive atomic reactors. There is no long-term storage solution for atomic waste, and even those sites run by the U.S government like Hanford in the state of Washington is leaking extreme amounts of radioactivity into the water and air.

Most of the components of nuke plants are built overseas, so there will be no increase in American jobs, while renewable energy is currently fueling an economic boom, employing more people than are working in oil, gas and coal combined!

So, here we are with no solution for the storage of nuclear waste; not enough money to decommission and dismantle these sites, which will leave nuke carcasses sitting on the banks of our rivers, oceans, and lakes for hundreds of years before the extensive radioactivity decays away; and then we are supposed to buy into waiting for 15-years for a new untried design – that will still incorporate the exorbitant costs and accumulating toxic waste of current atomic power, while global climate change simply takes a vacation.

The Fairewinds Crew has been researching, analyzing, and discussing these issues extensively for the past two years. Look at our short 2-minute animation entitled Smokescreen released in November 2016the short scientific opinion story, Nuclear Power Is Not "Green Energy": It Is a Fount of Atomic Waste we wrote in Truthout, and the longer presentation Fairewinds chief engineer Arnie Gundersen gave at McGill University last summer.

As Fairewinds Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen said in Forbes Magazine, “Both solar and batteries are not ‘fuels’ but rather technologies. The extraction cost of fuels continues to rise, while technology costs continue to fall”.

Follow the money: it’s easy to say nuclear power is the answer when corporations and our tax dollars pay for the extremely costly research and create specialized high-salaried careers for the few Americans actually in the industry!

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Energy News

Homeland Security Newswire: Pocket-size biological solution to radioactive threats

Five major meltdowns have occurred in the world during the last 38-years. Radioactivity lasts for 250,000 years at those sites, in those communities, in the water, and contaminating food supplies. We are not counting the leaking research reactors, research sites, or leaking waste dumps like WIPP and Hanford.   

The work we do every day at Fairewinds Energy Education shows us the ongoing non-negotiable threats of nuclear power and atomic weapons.  How do we do this work day after day? We always look for the rays of hope, like the phenomenal growth in U.S. energy independence, by way of solar and wind, that is fueling such an amazing renaissance in American jobs as it also boosts the American economy.

We also look at new technologies that can help people who live in Japan in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown, the Ukraine and Belarus with the ongoing tragedy of Chernobyl, and people in the US, who are being radioactively poisoned by leaking nuclear waste dumps, leaking atomic reactor uranium mines, and sites of meltdowns here in the US, like Santa Susana in California or Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.

Today we saw a ray of hope: A small biotech firm in Israel believes it has developed an anti-radiation therapy.  By using the cells from human placenta, Pluristem Therapeutics, has put an anti-radiation therapy into a pocket-sized vial. The U.S. Government is currently evaluating the product with early pilot studies that are showing promise. Currently, First Responders lack a point-of-care radiation-measuring device to determine a person’s exposure to radiation. As such, if there were a nuclear disaster, medical personal would have to administer anti-radiation therapy regardless of exposure to everyone in the vicinity in order to lessen the body-burden each person receives. The new therapy from Pluristem Therapeutics is easily stockpiled and is easy to administer due to its size, thus making it extremely desirable if the tests work out.

We hope this technology will be shown to help people all around the world overcome the profusion of radioactive isotopes that are contaminating our precious planet. We must move to cleaner and more sustainable sources of electric generation and once again build a strong US economy.