Saturday, December 10, 2005

Nuclear for Kyoto Fears

The world's environmentalists gathered for 10 days in Montreal, Canada to sing the praises of the Kyoto accords on global warming even though few countries are on-target for their greenhouse gas emissions targets and those that are cannot expect to continue
Kyoto requires developed nations to bring their total greenhouse-gas emissions to 5% below their 1990 levels by 2012. Yet in 2003, emissions were above the 1990 baseline by more than 10% in Italy and Japan, more than 20% in Ireland and Canada, and more than 40% in Spain. Germany and Britain have met their Kyoto targets, but this is the result of one-time events: the collapse of British coal and the shuttering of much of the former East Germany's industrial base. Given Germany's anemic economy and Britain's reduced growth forecasts, the appetite in either country for costly environmental virtue is not likely to increase. Wall Street Journal
There was interesting discussion of nuclear power. German greens made the case that the targets can be met without substantial new nuclear power generation. And the industry can't build enough. And, besides, the nuc industry depends on government subsidies. And researcher Felix Christian Matthes added the ultimate insult: "nuclear power has failed the "market test" because the industry depends on government subsidies in the form of caps on liability and funding for long term waste disposal of high level radioactive wastes." The nuclear industry was there to talk back and did. And James Glassman's sent Ron Bailey there to report
First, Colin Hunt from the Canadian Nuclear Association dismissed the activist implication that the number of power plants needed to offset 5 GtCO2 of emissions cannot be built fast enough. "Building enough nuclear facilities to produce 25 GWs of additional power each year is equal to the construction worldwide in the 1970s and 1980s," he said. .... So what about the subsidy claims made by Matthes and other anti-nuclear activists?
There are two parts to the subsidy question, first insurance. The discussion is too long to quote here. The industry insures itself in the US up to $10 billion per incident. There is a federal cap on liability payments. Maybe the greens are right that this cap provides an artificial support to the industry. The second part on subsidies is the disposing of nuclear waste.
What about the claim that the government subsidizes the disposal of nuclear wastes? Here the activists are wrong. The nuclear industry people point out that taxpayers do not subsidize nuclear waste disposal; ratepayers do. The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act requires electricity consumers to pay into the Nuclear Waste Fund a fee of one-tenth of a cent for every nuclear-generated kilowatt-hour of electricity consumed. That fund now totals $24 billion. It may be government mandated, but it is not government financed.
And in conclusion: "Finally, it certainly should not be the case that nuclear power is pre-judged and excluded by international treaties dealing with climate change. If the activists are so sure that they are right that nuclear power will fail the market test, then they ought to give the market a chance to prove them right." Also, Greenie Watch has some comments from ex-Green Peace founder Patrick Moore on Kyoto and nuclear power. They don't link to individual items, so you have to scroll or search down. Greenie Watch

1 comment:

James Aach said...

As noted above, nuclear power is back in the news with increasing frequency due to global warming concerns. While I’m a longtime nuclear energy worker myself, I can’t say that I’m sure what the future of nuclear energy should be (really). But I am sure we will make better decisions if we understand what nuclear energy is right now.

However, I’ve come to realize that the real world of nuclear power is unknown to the general public, which has had far more access to the workings of the Starship Enterprise than to the nuke plant down the street. In response, I’ve written an insider’s account of the American nuclear power industry, called “Rad Decision”. The book is available, at no cost to readers, at

Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand has endorsed the book, stating: “I’d like to see RAD DECISION widely read.”

Designed for the lay reader, this unique peek beyond the security fence is in the form of a techno-thriller novel. Rad Decision covers nuclear plant operation, events such as Chernobyl and TMI, and ends with how an accident might be handled today. It also includes, for the first time, an insider perspective on the politics and human relations that greatly impact how nuclear units in the U.S. are operated.

At the book is presented as a series of Episodes (15 minutes reading time each) and also provided as a PDF file. This is an independent, non-profit project with no advertising. All sides of the nuclear power debate will find items to like, and dislike, within Rad Decision.

I hope you’ll take the opportunity to take a look at

James Aach

(...and if you like it, please pass the word.)