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Monday, April 30, 2012

Nuclear Energy is Not a Mature Industry

Article originally appeared at Consumer Energy Report

Senator Bernie Sanders is using Grist Magazine to lobby against government assistance for nuclear energy on the grounds that it's a mature industry. I might agree with him if it really were a mature industry and if renewables really could carry the day without it. But it isn't, and renewables can't. Always irritates me to watch ignorant politicians screw with my children's' futures. As sometimes happens with my long-winded comments, the one I left over there got large enough to convert into a post over here.

Senator Sanders may have good intentions, but what's new? We don't need any more roads to hell paved by those. He's just another member of the generation that has been systematically misinformed by "the end justifies the means" anti-nuclear lobby and our sensationalist for profit lay media.

An earlier article on Grist recently (and inadvertently) demonstrated with a simple graph that the most optimistic estimates for renewable energy do not come close to meeting our energy needs, all cost issues aside.

Do government subsidies ever pay off? The poster child for government subsidies that have paid off royally would have to be those for nuclear energy. There are presently about 60 nuclear power plants under construction around the world. Just off the press:
Westinghouse Electric Company and Ameren Missouri have entered into an agreement to respond collaboratively to the United States Department of Energy (DOE) Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for developing and licensing the Westinghouse Small Modular Reactor (SMR).
Bernie and/or his co-writer said:
Whether you support nuclear energy or not, we should all be able to agree that with record debt, we cannot afford to continue to subsidize this mature industry and its multi-billion-dollar corporations. If the nuclear industry believes so fervently in its technology, then nuclear companies and Wall Street investors can put their money where the mouth is. Let them finance, insure, and pay for nuclear plants themselves.
I can't think of a more promising technology to subsidize. With all of the new nuclear technology coming down the road, you can't seriously call this a mature industry. Where's the legislation to end government mandated consumption of food-based corn ethanol (moonshine) which may quietly be starving hundreds of thousands to death annually?

Nuclear may be expensive up front, but it certainly has proven to pay off over time. I'm a big fan of renewables, but they are going to need a lot of help from nuclear, and never mind that renewables receive even greater subsidies and are even more expensive than nuclear per unit energy, not that this is necessarily a bad thing.

Nuclear energy has been around for about half of a century. Aircraft technology has been around for about a century. By Senator Sander’s reasoning, a Sopwith Camel is the equivalent of an F-22 Raptor. There would be no F-22 raptor without government funding.