nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Magical thinking of the nuclear lobby as it jumps on the Green New Deal bandwagon

Unfortunately, the case for nuclear as a green technology is not so simple—the technology faces a spate of environmental and economic challenges, while its track record as a bridge fuel shows it may be more rivalrous than concomitant with renewables. In fact, it may be the nuclear industry that needs the Green New Deal, not the other way around.

For as long as it’s existed, nuclear has been an aspirational technology as much as an extant one

the magical thinking of the nuclear industry has taken different forms. Over decades, breeder reactors, salt reactors, large-scale fusion have all been the nuclear future just over the horizon. “The industry that people talk about is a theoretical industry,” says Jaczko. “The actual industry is not that.”

So the enthusiasm for the public investment of the Green New Deal is primarily a tactical one, with the promise of a massive outlay of public funds enticing an industry in need of a lifeline.

The Tantalizing Nuclear Mirage, Many see nuclear power as a necessary part of any carbon-neutral mix. The reality isn’t so simple. The American Prospect, BY ALEXANDER SAMMON DECEMBER 5, 2019  

It took seven months on the campaign trail for Cory Booker to emerge as the Democratic Party’s foremost champion of nuclear power. In September, after he unveiled a signature climate plan replete with “$20 billion dedicated to research, development and demonstration of next-generation advanced nuclear energy,” he embraced the technology with unprecedented ardor. “I didn’t come to the United States Senate as a big nuclear guy,” Booker told Grist in an interview. “But when I started looking at the urgency of climate change … nuclear has to be a part of the blend.”

To hear Booker tell it, his evolution on the subject was the product of scientific rigor and anti-ideological clarity on decarbonization. He related this narrative during a media blitz, comparing anti-nuclear Democrats to Republican climate deniers over their rejection of an incontrovertible science, while pledging to usher in a nuclear future that no right-minded person could deny. “Where the science is going, to me, at first sounded like science fiction … new nuclear actually portends of exciting things where you have no risk of the kinds of meltdowns we’re seeing,” he proclaimed at CNN’s climate town hall.

Grandiosity aside, Booker isn’t alone in his nuclear embrace. He’s part of an unlikely pro-nuclear political alliance, an emergent accord that spans the centrist think tank Third Way, Andrew Yang, Jay Inslee, environmental activists, and progressive commentators alike. “The left should stop worrying and learn to love existing nuclear power plants,” wrote New York’s Eric Levitz in a subsequent send-up of Bernie Sanders’s and Elizabeth Warren’s twin commitments to phase out the technology.

In a world where the rapid deployment of zero-carbon energy production is urgent, nuclear power, the argument goes, represents the only proven bet.

……..With 11 years, per the U.N.’s 2018 IPCC report, to overhaul our energy system, to be serious about decarbonization is to find a place at the table for nuclear.

It’s an alluring idea. Already, this logic has been embraced in states like Ohio and Booker’s New Jersey, which have been allocating green tax subsidies to nuclear projects. And while it’s largely played out in the background, the question of what to do about nuclear has vexed Green New Dealers since the rollout of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s framework in February. While plane travel and hamburgers raised hackles in the press, one of the first clauses to be deleted from the initial proposal pledged to phase out the technology altogether.

So does the Green New Deal need nuclear to achieve its lofty goals? Does zero-carbon energy infrastructure necessitate a nuclear buildout, or at least an embrace of already-existing nuclear as a bridge fuel, as countries like Sweden have done? Unfortunately, the case for nuclear as a green technology is not so simple—the technology faces a spate of environmental and economic challenges, while its track record as a bridge fuel shows it may be more rivalrous than concomitant with renewables. In fact, it may be the nuclear industry that needs the Green New Deal, not the other way around.

DESPITE THE NEWFOUND exigency of overhauling the country’s energy mix, this is not the first time America’s energy system has arrived at a crossroads in the last ten years, nor is it the first time nuclear has been trotted out as its last, best hope. In the late aughts, with oil prices soaring and production stagnant, policymakers made a commitment to expanding American nuclear generation. An era of so-called “nuclear renaissance” began, with four next-generation reactors commissioned at two plants, one in Georgia and the other in South Carolina.

Now, over a decade later, that project managed to bankrupt its construction company, Westinghouse, nearly taking down the entire Toshiba conglomerate, Westinghouse’s parent company, with it. The two reactors in South Carolina were abandoned, while the Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power utility companies assumed control of the remaining two reactors in Georgia, the Vogtle 3 and 4. But even a cash infusion from Georgia ratepayers, who began subsidizing the completion of the project in 2011, was not enough to keep the project close to its budget or timeline. Initially expected to come online in 2016-2017, the Vogtle plant has run some $14 billion over budget. Its completion dates have been deferred to 2021-2022. There’s currently no other active nuclear development in the United States.

That timeline should be particularly alarming for nuclear enthusiasts………

WHEN DID NUCLEAR get this environmental rebrand? Until very recently, the industry hadn’t led with its environmental chops. In fact, for years, nuclear buddied up with the coal industry, courting the Trump administration for subsidies, while the Nuclear Energy Institute supported the Department of Energy’s failed coal and nuclear bailout, and lauded Ohio’s controversial coal and nuclear subsidy package earlier this year.

For as long as it’s existed, nuclear has been an aspirational technology as much as an extant one. Since Eisenhower first announced nuclear energy generation as a civilian project in 1953, its promises of worldwide abundance have far outpaced its production. Twenty years later, in 1973, Richard Nixon pledged to have 1,000 nuclear plants online by 1980, a goal that never approached realization. Since then, the magical thinking of the nuclear industry has taken different forms. Over decades, breeder reactors, salt reactors, large-scale fusion have all been the nuclear future just over the horizon. “The industry that people talk about is a theoretical industry,” says Jaczko. “The actual industry is not that.” Since the development of nuclear weapons, the non-military nuclear energy program has always been a PR charge as much as it was a serious proposal. “Historians have determined that the rollout of civilian nuclear power in the 1960s had as much to do with Cold War PR as the need for electricity,” says Brown.

Nuclear’s pivot to unlikely environmental champion and running mate of the Green New Deal is far from a happy accident. It’s a deliberate posture, informed as much by shrewd marketing as Booker’s data-driven rationale. With the rapid development of solar and wind, nuclear is now far more expensive to produce in terms of dollars per kilowatt hour. With the rapid growth of renewables, nuclear now finds itself on the wrong side of free-market forces, in dire need of public subsidy to stay afloat.

So the enthusiasm for the public investment of the Green New Deal is primarily a tactical one, with the promise of a massive outlay of public funds enticing an industry in need of a lifeline. “Of course the nuclear industry is trying new alliances; they are desperate.” says Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. Cutting them in would be an unforced error for GND legislation—the money that would be spent making nuclear viable, shielding it from an array of climate disasters, and figuring out what to do with its waste would be much better spent figuring out battery storage or something else to stitch in the gaps in renewable generation.

Looking closer at Booker’s proposal, it’s not clear even he believes the sales pitch he’s making. Despite his lofty pronouncements, the climate plan, which sums to $3 trillion, allocates just two-thirds of 1 percent to nuclear development. The $20 billion is barely enough to cover the cost overruns of the two reactors at Georgia’s Vogtle plant. The notion that such a paltry sum would finally put the industry over the top after decades of malaise, indeed, sounds like science fiction. https://prospect.org/greennewdeal/the-tantalizing-nuclear-mirage/

December 7, 2019 - Posted by | election USA 2020

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: