Nuclear Insurance Fraud

Have you wondered why so many people oppose nuclear power generation when there are so many ads claiming there’s a “nuclear Renaissance” and that it’s “green” or “sustainable” and free of greenhouse gas emissions? There are smart people like George Monbiot, and even my dad who think there’s room for nuclear power on our grid. I don’t share their enthusiasm.

The only Renaissance has been in the ability of the nuclear industry to sell greenwashing to the masses through mass media. The only thing green about nuclear power is that its plant life cycle produces less smog and greenhouse gas than coal per Watt. And it’s not cheap; Ontario is still paying for nuclear plants that are not in operation any longer, and nuclear power plants can’t be insured for their true value or risk to public safety. If nuclear plants were instead a car, they wouldn’t be allowed on the road in Saskatchewan!

Recent research by Versicherungsforen Leipzig GmbH , a company that specialises in actuarial calculations, shows that full insurance against nuclear disasters would increase the price of nuclear electricity by a range of values – €0.14 per kWh up to €2.36 per kWh – depending on assumptions made.

A new paper from Zelenicka-Zovko and Pearce (for Queens University in Kingston, Ontario) summarises the full extent of that indirect subsidy – assessed at $33 million (in 2001 $) per reactor per year. They calculate what the economic value would be if that kind of indirect subsidy was transferred to solar PV in the form of equivalent loan guarantees. The conclusion is startling:

“By the year 2110, the money now slated for nuclear insurance premiums in the US could produce an additional $5.3 trillion if invested in solar PV loan guarantees.”

And here’s why you should be skeptical of claims to the contrary of these findings:

“The new evidence we commissioned for this study suggests that it’s going to be very difficult to estimate the total costs for a new programme based on any new reactor design. All we have to go on are industry estimates, and our evidence clearly demonstrates, on the basis of historical performance, that considerable scepticism is warranted in assessing the reliability of estimates from the industry itself – or indeed from governments that are not acting in a genuinely impartial way.”

AHEM, the Sask Party claimed a “caution light” after the public gave a resounding “NO” to nuclear power expansion here in 2007. Impartial they were not; everyone knew who buttered their bread.

“Finally, the Committee’s estimate also makes no allowance for additional, post-Fukushima cost increases.”

Isn’t that like failing to look at security at airports after 9/11?

“The late John O’Blackburn of Duke University calculated a ‘historic cross-over’ of solar and nuclear costs in 2010 in the US State of North Carolina. Whereas ‘commercial-scale solar developers are already offering utilities electricity at 14 cents or less per kWh. Blackburn estimated that a new nuclear plant would deliver power for between 14-18 cents per kWh”.

And that’s why no more nuclear power plants of the conventional sorts we’ve seen the last 50 years, need to ever be built again.

“It’s still not too late for [insert region here]. But you’ve become a big part of the problem. Your inability (or unwillingness) to track solar cost trends has marooned you in a weird contrarian crusade to undermine the solar industry – even as you volunteer your services as a mouthpiece for the nuclear [or insert other like coal] industry.”

Please, don’t be a mouthpiece for the nuclear industry, and instead join those of us who want 100% renewable energy by 2050 on Earth.

4 responses to “Nuclear Insurance Fraud

  1. 100% renewable is a nice-sounding goal, but most probably impossible. The electric grid will always need base load sources and renewables other than hydro and geothermal just aren’t able to provide that. Wind and solar power will need to be stored, which means either pumping water uphill into a reservoir for hydro to draw from, or tons of gigantic, expensive batteries.

    The Oil Drum has lots of good information on oil and other energy sources and some ideas of what we might expect in the future. Here’s one article that includes a simulation of wind for three European countries based on 2009 data. “The wind always blows somewhere” is a nice saying, but sometimes it simply doesn’t and then you have black/brownouts.

  2. For some MPs nuclear weapons are a moral issue and not to be countenanced. For others it’s about having a seat at the top table. But sensible people on both sides yesterday sounded pragmatically agnostic about the pros and cons……

  3. Perhaps 100% renewable is not currently feasible, but it is currently feasible to phase out coal and nuclear, and rely on a combination of natural gas, hydro, biomass, solar, wind and geothermal. At some point in the future, 100% renewable may be entirely possible. Denmark, among other countries, has proved that politics not science are the barriers to renewables.

    • Exactly Yens. If we don’t set our goal on the ideal, we’re very unlikely to meet it ever, or come as close as we have to.

      The “Office of Climate Change” idea pitched at stakeholder meetings more than a year ago, where the government was touting a 20% reduction in a decade, is a piss-poor target, and one obviously not based on science but rather Conservative politics in Ottawa.

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