25 January 2010

Climate Change & Economy Portend Revival of U.S. Nuke Power?

This special report run by McClatchey News on the politics and costs of nuclear power in the federal climate change legislation is well worth reading.

As the report points out, Congressional momentum is for expanding loan guarantees to provide 50% of the cost of construction for 8-12 new nuclear plants on top of the guarantees already passed under Bush; and, to allow nuclear to get the bulk of all funding from a new "clean energy" bank. While we were celebrating the end of USDOE's Bush Administration GNEP impact statement and program (Global Nuclear Energy Partnership program to double the number of nuclear reactors in the US accompanied by reprocessing as a claim to solve waste problems), the nuclear industry simply moved ahead to position the same proposal within the federal climate change bills.  Progressive Democrats can not pass climate change legislation without support of pro-nuclear Democrats and some Republicans (whose price is massive support flowing to nuclear).

Wind power in the West is already significantly less expensive per kwh (kilowatt hour) than new nuclear power; and, of course, wind doesn't have to be bought in $8 - $10 billion packages. Conservation and investment in efficiency are far more cost effective. Essentially, without massive subsidies that starve all other energy investment, new nuclear power projects can't get off the ground.

The cost of reprocessing nuclear fuel rods doesn't even begin to get factored into these cost estimates.... nor does any of the cost estimates include how the liquid High-Level Nuclear Wastes from reprocessing will get treated and disposed. That's where our "lessons from Hanford" should be heeded - for the High-Level Nuclear Wastes that are threatening the Columbia River were produced via reprocessing.

Heart of America NW has been one of the few NW voices objecting to massive loan guarantees and what amounts to a nuclear industry bank account in the pending federal climate change legislation. Unlimited access to a "clean energy bank" without limits per project or for nuclear energy overall, plus more loan guarantees as being lobbied for, will starve conservation, solar, wind and true renewables. This is also a key reason to be critical of the abandonment of efforts to pass WA State Climate Change legislation and the lack of effort for state funding mechanisms for investment in true renewables and conservation. WA, OR and CA still have the opportunity to both set the marker for congressional action and to have a program with investments from cap and trade and emission auction fees invested in conservation and truly renewable clean energy that would be in place long before a federal program (and, once enacted will almost certainly not be preempted). Instead, state elected officials with tacit agreement from some quarters of the environmental community have washed their hands and said we'll just let Congress act. That's neither leadership on Climate Change nor a prescription for action and investment to meet our State's goals for reducing emissions.

What can you do? Email or tell your Senators and US Rep that you want climate change legislation that does not pour your money into the least cost effective option - nuclear - while starving true clean, renewable energy programs. Remind them that claims of nuclear being "clean" if the waste is reprocessed don't survive a visit to Hanford where we have no solution in sight for the liquid High-Level Nuclear Wastes produced from reprocessing. Write Governor Gregoire and Governor Kulongoski and your legislators saying you want Northwest states' climate change legislation put back as a priority - which is a good investment for our economy as well as for the health of our planet and children.

1 comment:

  1. I read the article, and I have a couple issues to mention.
    First of all I want to say how sickening it is that the nuclear energy corporations can buy their way onto the bills. They're basically advertising themselves the same way drug companies spend millions influencing doctors; they say they're the best and only solution, without the research to support their claims. The money does the talking in D.C. when it should really be the scientists who know what they're talking about.

    Next is the point in the article about how Nuclear Energy is being considered "clean energy." Chernobyl is pretty clean, alright. So is Hanford, and Three mile island. I think the troubling issue concerning clean environment recently is the view that anything that doesn't contribute to global warming/climate change is seen as harmless. Somehow the debate of a clean environment shifted to "It doesn't contribute to climate change? OK, it's clean then." This logical problem shows that debate over a clean environment is focusing too much on climate change. This is understandable, as it affects the vast majority of people on this planet. A nuclear plant, however, has the power to affect a great number as well. Chernobyl pointed that out.

    Another point is the hypocrisy in the Republicans. All of a sudden, nuclear power is good because it doesn't contribute to climate change. Aren't they trying to convince the world that people aren't the cause of climate change? By promoting nuclear energy as a solution to climate change, they in turn admit human involvement in climate change. That is something that needs to be pointed out to the followers of Republican policy.