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Who Will Pay for Nuclear Power Plant Cleanup?

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Yves here. Holy moley, the cost estimates focus the mind! And the little mishap recounted below isn’t encouraging either.

By John Daly, a non-resident scholar at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and chief analyst at OilPrice. Cross posted from OilPrice

Many of the civilian nuclear power plants built in the US. and Western Europe during the halcyon days of the Eisenhower administration are coming to the end of their operational lives as their operating licenses expire.

The looming deadlines leave their operators with two stark choices – apply for a license extension beyond the original forty years, or decommission.

A bad choice, however you look at it. For a license extension, aging NPPs must upgrade, while decommissioning raises the primordial question sidestepped since the dawn of the civilian nuclear age – what to do with the radioactive debris?

The British imbroglio.

The predicted cost of decommissioning Sellafield nuclear facility in Cumbria, Britain’s largest nuclear complex, is now estimated at an eye-watering $104.3 billion over the next three decades, a figure that inexorably year by year continues to rise and represents over $1,546 for every man, woman and child in the British Isles.

Sellafield is a nuclear reprocessing site, close to the village of Seascale on the British coast of the Irish Sea in Cumbria, England, a subsidiary of the original nuclear reactor site at Windscale, which, along with neighboring Calder Hall, is undergoing decommissioning and dismantling of its four nuclear power generating reactors.

Now, the aging facility, one of the first established under the Eisenhower’s administration’s civilian “atoms for peace” program, is due for decommissioning.

So, where to store the nuclear waste?

The decision follows in the wake of a 30 January meeting of three local authorities which have yet to decide whether to agree to further investigation of the possibilities of an underground store in their districts. After local authorities in Kent passed on the proejct, Cumbria county, Allerdale and Copeland are the British councils still expressing interest in the possibility of hosting a nuclear dump site. Sellafield remains a massive local employer, with over 9,000 people directly employed there.

Poisoning the regional picture, in April 2010, the company managing Sellafield sent four bags of radioactive waste from its plant to Lillyhall landfill, instead of the low-level repository at Drigg. All of the bags, which contained low-level radioactive waste, including gloves, mops and rubber, were retrieved and returned to Sellafield for correct disposal. Complicating the picture, seven charges were subsequently brought by Britain’s Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation following an investigation into “multiple failures” involving the incorrect disposal of low-level radioactive waste. While Sellafield admitted the charges, Sellafield spokesman Eleanor Sanderson disputed the charge that the error was out of complacency and negligence and insisted that staff work “tirelessly” to maintain safety on site. Dr. Rob Allott, EA nuclear regulator team leader, maintained, “It’s highly likely that some groups of people would have been exposed to radioactivity. The waste is inherently hazardous, but with a low risk factor.”

Addressing the case over the pollution, heard at West Cumbria Courthouse last week, Barry Berlin, for the Health Safety Executive and EA, said an error was caused by a new monitor which had passed the bags as “general” waste, exempting them from strict disposal controls an error that was only uncovered when a training exercise was carried out at Sellafield. Seeking to ameliorate the implications of the sloppy bookkeeping Berlin told the court, “There is no doubt that these are welcomed changes. But because we are dealing with radioactivity we submit these should have checked beforehand.”

What remains unsaid that the court case is where the more than $104 billion to decommission
Sellafield will come from, much less where the nuclear debris will reside after the facility is offline. The British electorate deserves answers to the questions.

Across the Pond, Florida’s Progress Energy’s Crystal River 3 Nuclear Power Plant is also in the process of being decommissioned. Not only for consumers but those living nearby, the decisions regarding Sellafield’s decommissioning are likely to reverberate across the Atlantic.

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45 comments

  1. JGordon

    This is the issue that terrifies me most. It’s an indisputable fact that our leadership is generally criminal–and that’s fine as far as it goes.

    However here we have something that breaks the boundaries of standard criminality into the realm of insanity: messing around with stuff that *will* (unless the human race starts doing something incredibly expensive starting yesterday–decommission all nuclear reactors and putting the radioactive debris they’ve been building up for the past 40 years into dry cask storage deep under the earth, where they will eventually be subducted into the planet’s interior several hundred million years hence–an undertaking so vast and expensive that the human race may not even have the ability to it anymore) completely ionize that atmosphere and consequently eradicate all life on earth, even down to those super bacteria that live off of arsenic at the bottom of the ocean. Well ok–maybe those things could live. But nothing else will.

    Design a bunch of nuclear plants that will melt down if they don’t get constant grid power? Check. Incentivize sociopathic corporations to store thousands of highly radioactive nuclear rods more or less permanently in swimming pools directly above active nuclear reactors? Check. Put a bunch of these things on top of seismically active earthquake faults? Check.

    Well I don’t know about you all, but I’m convinced that the people who do this stuff are psychopaths. Not “sociopaths”, but psychopaths. As in what they are doing doesn’t even have the logical, if amoral, motivation of criminal self interest–it’s just completely insane.

    1. Susan the other

      I couldn’t agree more. It is insane. Now after Fukushima, we are still without a plan. I think we (US) gave in to special interests when Harry Reid got a big concession from Obama not to put nuclear waste at Yucca because of earthquake concerns. It was really for the sake of PR for Las Vegas, but nevermind that little Chernobyl. But there are earthquakes everywhere. Yucca is probably the best of all sites because it is in Nevada, and Nevada is a dome of magma with a relatively thin crust so that as the earth’s crust moves either the lava will consume the nuclear waste or drag it down into the abyss. Or maybe bump it up like so many bones from a tomb. But it would be good to find the most likely fault to drag this stuff back down. Why can’t we do that? We could really use a hot kitchen!

      1. Stan Musical

        Try this: join physicsforums.com. Find the Fukushima thread. Make cogent, detailed posts arguing the insanity of nuclear power (without, of course, using words like insanity, however accurate). Watch the nuclear engineers show their arrogant, hubristic insider colors, to the effect of “you don’t know the science like we do, little boy, so take a hike” (one member with the moniker nuceng is particularly representative of this).
        Refuse to back down in the face of fallacious arguments (ad hominem, straw man, etc). You’ll get banned. It’s inevitable, and telling.

        For gawd’s sake, one poster was ridiculed for suggesting there’s such a thing as a “military-industrial complex!” He didn’t even include academia, allopathic medicine, and the prison/security industry.

        Until every morally compromised engineer is managed by someone steeped in humanistic or spiritual values, we’ve just got more nuclear disasters and irradiation to look forward to. India and China alone have close to 1000 planned. Hell yeah, another Fukushima every month!

  2. David Mills

    A cost that can’t borne won’t be. The nuclear industry in the US has a liability cap of $67bn and doesn’t reserve for prospective losses. There is no way to insure an event that could exterminate the planet. End of the day, the costs / losses / boondoggle will be “nationalized”.

    1. Clive

      Here’s one they made earlier: http://www.tepco.co.jp/index-j.html

      (non-Japanese speakers are fortunately spared the exquisite ulta-humble language hand-wringing and apologetic contrition which greets the unsuspecting visitor to their website — it really is a triumph of that nation’s fine art of public agonising over failure. Unfortunately, the removal of uranium isotopes from the Fukushima environment won’t be quite as easily accomplished. That said, I’d trust Japanese cultural norms to force this to be done rather than what we’re going to have to attempt to make happen here in England with Sellafield where being ashamed of one’s actions is definitely a lost skill)

    1. ambrit

      Dear bulfinch;
      Well pardner, seeing as Florida is going to be mainly a vast shallows edging the Atlantic in the historical near future, that’s out. Unless you don’t mind radioactive plumes streaming up the East Coast and then across the pond to Europe.

  3. Clive

    A good article, however, I would make a small quibble that the author ends up blurring the boundaries about nuclear power, spent fuel and waste reprocessing and nuclear weapons.

    By describing Sellafield as a “nuclear facility in Cumbria, Britain’s largest nuclear complex” the piece could lead the unwary into mischaracterising Sellafield as a nuclear *power plant*. It never really was. Instead, it was first and foremost the centre of producing fissile highly enriched plutonium and uranium for ordinance purposes. In the 1950′s and 1960′s this was (in the view of successive governments at the time) desperately needed and needed quickly. So corners were cut, to say the least. In large part the clean up legacy is due to this early dash for big quantities of weapons grade material, most notably the large graphite fire which burned out of control for days at an enrichment pile.

    Unfortunately the culture of bungling, shoddiness and cover-ups persisted at the facilities “second life” as a reprocessing centre. For that work, they really should have started up at a new site with new management.

    (I have a relative who worked there in the 1980′s).

    I’ll declare for the avoidance of doubt, I’m generally (reluctantly) pro nuclear power but, er, definitely not pro nuclear weapons or officialdom acting in an outrageously self serving way especially when it is injurious to the local population.

    Apart from that, nice to see the coverage.

      1. Clive

        Yes, definitely, with a tack-on token gesture to “the peaceful atom” via the Calder Hall power plant (which took a very modest amount of cooling water from one of the weapons grade material production piles and ran it through a weedy turbine mainly for PR purposes). But mostly military, not civilian, output facility.

        1. Anon

          Hanford is the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site. Cleanup will cost billions of dollars and last decades.

          Central to that cleanup is the removal of millions of gallons of a highly toxic, radioactive stew — enough to fill dozens of Olympic-size swimming pools — from 177 aging, underground tanks. Many of those tanks have leaked over time — an estimated 1 million gallons of waste — threatening the groundwater and the neighboring Columbia River, the largest waterway in the Pacific Northwest. /snip

          [C]onstruction of a $12.3 billion plant to convert the waste to a safe, stable form is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. /snip

          “We’re out of time, obviously. These tanks are starting to fail now,” said Tom Carpenter of the Hanford watchdog group Hanford Challenge. “We’ve got a problem. This is big.”

          http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2013/0216/Hanford-nuclear-tank-in-Washington-State-is-leaking-liquids

  4. Sleeper

    Look at the costs folks -

    Nukes are expensive and always have been starting with the Manhattan Project.

    Even today nuke power costs the consumer about 15 cents per kWh while hydropower, energy efficiency cost about 3 cents per kWh.

    Not to mention wind, natural gas fired turbines, cogeneration and so on. Every see the cost for decommissioning a wind turbine ? a gas turbine ?

    1. mw

      ’15 cents per kWh’ is a most illusionary cost if you include the decommisioning cost. If you further include the safe keeping of the stored waste for a few hundred thousand years, the real cost would be astronomical, bankrupting any country that steeps itself in the worse than ostrich delusion.

  5. Antagonist

    I still believe that nuclear power is humanity’s best hope for a short-term shift away from oil.

    The problem in this case is not the technology. Technology can solve this. Newer breeder reactors allow the reuse of its waste, resulting in MUCH less material to be dumped. And later innovations will be able to reduce this waste even further, even going so far as making it profitable to dig up old dump sites as fuel.

    The biggest problem we have is management and the profit-minded mentality of business. It is the reason why warnings about fukushima was ignored. It was preventable.

    This article provides further evidence of the failings of humanity, not that of the technology. Logically a new power plant should contain estimates and budget for its whole life of operation, not just construction.

    I’m curious how this story will end.

    1. Jim A

      I think that for the most part, the waste that they’re talking about here, isn’t the high level waste that is a byproduct of a “once-through” fuel cycle. Those can be lessoned by running those into a breeder reactor. Rather we’re talking about low level wastes. The gloves and mops and rags mentioned, as well as irradiated concrete and piping, which tends to make up for it’s “low level-ness” by the fact that we’re talking about tons and tons of material. In many cases it’s cheaper to fence it off and control access FOREVER than it is to crunch it up and put it into a landfill.

    2. toxymoron

      Well, the French tried building a super-breeder (superphenix). They stopped the project in 1997. Decommissioning started in 1998 and will continue until 2028. As of today, they didn’t succeed yet in removing all of the cooling liquid.

      We should never talk about nuclear power. It’s real name is Frankenstein power: lots of power, until you loose control.

      Scientific American ran an article several years ago, where the cost of dismantling a nuclear power plant was estimated at 1ct/kWh produced.

    3. Brooklin Bridge

      Technology can solve this

      That’s a fair point but then it’s also true that each generation of Nuclear energy research tends to make this argument and it’s probably valid for the problems visible at the time. But then each generation of nuclear power plants seems to have at least one instance of serious failure where the apologists claim, “how could we have possibly foreseen this?”, suggesting that the problems – like bacteria – find nasty ways of overcoming solutions.

      Anyway, your second point that people, greed, corruption are the problem is sufficient reason alone to avoid Nuclear Energy as if it were the plague.

  6. rjs

    an engineer designing aggregates used in the perry plant on lake erie told me the specs called for a 40 year life span, and that’s exactly what they got; it will crumble on day one of the 41st year..

  7. LucyLulu

    I’m not clear why Sellafield is costing so much to decommission. I know it’s a facility using older technology (graphite IIRC) which increases the cost and reprocessing facilities have more toxic waste, but still…….. Does this cost include building the underground storage facility?

    There are pieces written periodically in our newspapers about our aging reactors and the eventual costs of decommissioning them. The highest figure I’ve seen thrown around has been $1 billion per reactor (current dollars). We have the same storage problems now that Yucca mountain has been put on permanent hold due to local NIMBY/(IMO justified, esp. w/concerns over geological surveys showing possible water, vs. Finland’s Onkalo, currently under construction, and will be solid granite tunnels over 500m underground). Some U.S. plants have above ground dry cask storage on-site for spent fuel that has cooled enough to be removed from the pools (usually takes 5 years), as a 100 year interim solution, and some, mostly military, is being transported to a facility in S.C., also for above ground storage.

    Europe to Decommission Majority of Nuclear Power Stations by 2030 While US Bucks Global Trend, Global Data, June 2012

    As Nuclear Reactors Age Funds to Close Them Lag, NYTimes March 2012

    How hard is it to dismantle 150 nuclear reactors? Europe’s about to find out., WaPo, June 2012

    1. Clive

      Hi LucyLulu, yes, you do indeed RC. Not unlike Britain’s Dounreay experimental fast breeder reactor which was famously (notoriously) constructed with ne’re a thought for how it might ever one day be decommissioned, Sellafield too was built quickly and cheaply in terms of the pile design which was as you say graphite-based.

      I personally see little read-across for the Sellafield decommissioning costs vs. that of the more modern AGR (UK design) / PWR (US design) installations. These plants didn’t die in a fire for one thing. It’s kind-a like estimating the cost of the Fukushima defueling and cleanup and say “gee, isn’t decommissioning nuclear power plants expensive ?”. Yes, that one is, but what’s that got to do with a plant which didn’t suffer a catastrophic failure ?

      Not that I wish in any way to deny the serious and still not fully answered questions about long term safe storage facilities, as you rightly mention.

  8. Mark P.

    “Stuff that *will* completely ionize that atmosphere and consequently eradicate all life on earth, even down to those super bacteria that live off of arsenic at the bottom of the ocean.”

    Oh noes. However —

    [1] All the waste produced in the U.S. since the Shippingport reactor reached criticality in 1957 would, if it were stacked side-by-side and end-to-end, cover an area approximately the size of a football field to a depth of about ten feet.

    [2] If you look, nobody is building any geological repository that won’t also permit access to pull the stuff right back out again. That’s because no state is truly serious about putting all “the radioactive debris they’ve been building up for the past 40 years into dry cask storage deep under the earth” where nobody can ever reach it again. And that’s because the stuff is simply too valuable.

    Most of it really isn’t “nuclear waste.” Indeed, from one viewpoint, “nuclear waste” is mostly a term of propaganda promoted by the U.S. government in the 1970s when it decided to stop reprocessing globally because it believed the resulting proliferation would give too many other countries nuclear deterrents that would counter U.S. military force. Of course, as Chomsky notes, the U.S. had no problem with a “nuclear umbrella” strategy to cover its own conventional military aggressions –

    https://7chan.org/lit/src/Chomsky,_Noam_-_Hegemony_or_survival.pdf

    What “nuclear waste” is, is barely-used nuclear fuel, good for many thousands of years of carbon-free energy if the move is made to reprocessing and working the various fuel cycles via various breeder reactor designs (which can breed more fissile material than they consume) –

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor

    [3] “Design a bunch of nuclear plants that will melt down if they don’t get constant grid power? Check. Incentivize sociopathic corporations to store thousands of highly radioactive nuclear rods more or less permanently in swimming pools directly above active nuclear reactors?”

    Oh noes.

    But Gen-III reactor designs that don’t melt down if the power goes out certainly exist. So do the means to avoid the — I agree — truly idiotic amounts of spent fuel currently stacked at U.S. reactor sites.

    That we maintain the current regime is the result of a malevolent synergy of: (a) the U.S. government policy outlined above; (b) the fact that the U.S. energy industry finds the current once-through reactor regime more profitable; (c ) anti-nuclear ideology like yours in the U.S.; and (d) most critically, the cheapness of natural gas here.

    (4) That last is the critical factor. Because of U.S. natural gas prices, any serious new nuclear buildout here is dead for the next decade.

    But don’t worry. The biggest nuclear buildout in history — of Gen-III reactor designs — has begun in Asia.In the next two years 46 new reactors will start construction; by 2018 the total is scheduled to reach over 100. As 436 nuclear reactors exist in the world now, and 48 of them in Japan are shutdown, that means this build-out will represent an expansion of nuclear power by 25 percent over its current global levels.

    And that’s only the nuclear reactor buildout in the next eight years, till this decade’s end.

    14 Reactors in 2012
    2012 India, NPCIL Kaiga 4 PHWR 202
    2012 Iran, AEOI Bushehr 1 PWR 950
    2012 Russia, Rosenergoatom Kalinin 4 PWR 950
    2012 Korea, KHNP Shin Kori 2 PWR 1000 (Jan)
    2012 Korea, KHNP Shin Wolsong 1 PWR 1000 (Jan)
    2012 Canada, Bruce Pwr Bruce A1 PHWR 769 (April)
    2012 Canada, Bruce Pwr Bruce A2 PHWR 769 (Sept)
    2012 Canada, NB Power Point Lepreau 1 PHWR 635
    2012 Argentina, Atucha 2 PHWR 692 (July)
    2012 India, NPCIL Kudankulam 1 PWR 950
    2012 India, NPCIL Kudankulam 2 PWR 950
    2012 China, CNNC Qinshan phase II-4 PWR 650
    2012 China, CGNPC Hongyanhe 1 PWR 1080
    2012 China, CGNPC Ningde 1 PWR 1080
    14 Reactors in 2013
    2013 Slovakia, SE Mochovce 3 PWR 440
    2013 Korea, KHNP Shin Wolsong 2 PWR 1000
    2013 Korea, KHNP Shin-Kori 3 PWR 1350
    2013 USA, TVA Watts Bar 2 PWR 1180
    2013 Russia Leningrad II-1 PWR 1070
    2013 China, CNNC Sanmen 1 PWR 1250
    2013 China, CGNPC Ningde 2 PWR 1080
    2013 China, CGNPC Yangjiang 1 PWR 1080
    2013 China, CGNPC Taishan 1 PWR 1700
    2013 China, CNNC Fangjiashan 1 PWR 1080
    2013 China, CNNC Fuqing 1 PWR 1080
    2013 China, CGNPC Hongyanhe 2 PWR 1080
    2013 Slovakia, SE Mochovce 4 PWR 440
    2013 India, Bhavini Kalpakkam FBR 470
    18 or 19 Reactors in 2014
    2014 Finland, TVO Olkilouto 3 PWR 1600
    2014 Russia Vilyuchinsk PWR x 2 70
    2014 Russia NovovoronezhII-1 PWR 1070
    2014 Taiwan Power Lungmen 1 ABWR 1300
    2014 Japan, Chugoku Shimane 3 ABWR 1375
    2014 China, CNNC Sanmen 2 PWR 1250
    2014 China, CPI Haiyang 1 PWR 1250
    2014 China, CGNPC Ningde 3 PWR 1080
    2014 China, CGNPC Hongyanhe 3 PWR 1080
    2014 China, CGNPC Hongyanhe 4 PWR 1080
    2014 China, CGNPC Yangjiang 2 PWR 1080
    2014 China, CGNPC Taishan 2 PWR 1700
    2014 China, CNNC Fangjiashan 2 PWR 1080
    2014 China, CNNC Fuqing 2 PWR 1080
    2014 China, CNNC Changjiang 1 PWR 650
    2014 Korea, KHNP Shin-Kori 4 PWR 1350
    2014? Japan, EPDC/J Power Ohma 1 ABWR 1350
    2014 Russia, Rosenergoatom Rostov 3 PWR 1070
    2014 Russia, Rosenergoatom Beloyarsk 4 FNR 750

    1. LucyLulu

      Mark,
      Work is now being done on Gen IV reactors which should improve upon Gen III reactors. The AP1000 Gen III reactors by Westinghouse, four of which are already under construction (two in GA, two in SC), have received criticism over safety of their steel and concrete containment structures by well-respected folks in the field. They also still use a conventional once-through fuel cycle.

      Most of the Gen IV reactors are still under development and have a ways to go before the designs will be ready for translation into a working reactor. But one type, the pebble bed already has some experience and this is what China is rolling out, sometime this year if no delays. It has the additional feature of its spent fuel being less suitable for making weaponry. S. Africa was building one too but halted construction due to lack of funding. A liguid molten thorium design has received a lot of interest and would reprocess and reuse fuel for several cycles as well as having the additional safety features (in case problem, cools down without human intervention).

      Whatever we do, we need to figure out what we plan to do with all our existing spent fuel. We’ll still have a more than ample supply to nuke the globe several hundred times over. Like everything else, nothing will be done. It will get kicked down the road.

      Ne’er do today what can be put off until tomorrow.

        1. Mark P.

          [1] Thorium reactor development is proceeding in China and India. The LFTR (liquid-fluoride thorium reactor) isn’t one of the six official Gen-4 reactor designs slated to arrive in 2030. But it might as well be, since there’s so much work being done on it. The Chinese effort, in particular, has 140 scientists currently, will supposedly expand its staffing to 750 persons in 2015, and is slated to produce prototype reactors in that year and and in 2017.

          [2] Note that while a thorium molten salt reactor has many advantages, thorium is a FERTILE material, meaning that a FISSILE material — uranium — is still needed as a seed to initiate the reaction in the thorium.

          [3] So, while a thorium reactor would certainly tend to be weaponization or proliferation-resistant as its proponents claim, it’s both a breeder reactor and the technology — which is different in every respect from the nuclear reactors that people now know — inherently involves reprocessing.

          Hence, there are ways that one could be tweaked — if you had the substantial resources of a nation-state — to be quite the nifty factory for producing high purity 233-U. It would be enormously tricky and expensive, but doable. I’ve mentioned this here before, but now the cat’s fully out of the bag since a paper in NATURE last month –

          http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v492/n7427/full/492031a.html

          [4] If anybody wants more info, the wiki page on the LFTR is good, comprehensive and honest.

      1. gepay

        if one notices that the Sellafield accident was different than 3Mile Island, which was different from Chernobyl, that was different from Fukishima to talk about only the most known nuclear disasters, then one would observe that every type reactor has its own frailties that lead to its failure over time. New style reactors would have their own unique ways of failings which will only become known when they fail. And the costs when they do are so high, so high. So dream on you nuclear power boosters. It probably won’t happen where you live.

  9. Ds

    What cleanup ? Reactors will stop, and for a small annual maintenance budget nothing will be done for tenth of years, even centuries.

  10. dutch

    When the Obama administration abandoned Yucca Mountain it instantly turned the country’s 60 or so temporary spent fuel storage sites into permanent storage facilities. Currently the revenue stream for providing maintenance and security of these storage facilities comes from the sale of electricity generated by the reactors operating at the sites. Shutting down the reactors without replacing them will cut off this revenue stream. To expect the corporations who own these plants to continue funding maintenance and security without any revenue seems a bit unrealistic to me.

  11. rob

    Nuclear energy is an experiment in short term thinking.Back in 1950-1960,it held infinite possibilities.But now it is just foolishness.The reality is that corporations will do the cheapest option.They will underfund the “what if “fund.Other than storing the waste for a rediculously small percentage of time that stuff remains dirty,there are no answers.
    The crowd who believes human nature includes infinite wisdom, and so believe an industry that has been around for one lifetime(a seriously short term),will figure it out…I say are deluded.It is like sitting in the backseat of a car that is speeding down the road, and thinking, surely someone will come up with a “brake” and a “steering wheel”; and everything will be fine.
    To support new reactors at this point is negligent.There is no real way to deal with waste.and waste isn’t just spent fuel, that may be a football field in size.It is everything that fuel is in the proximity of.Look at the shoreham nuclear plant on long island new york.It was a swindle from day one.I remember hearing from family who were working on it in the early 80′s that the whole thing was going to be a swindle. And it has.There was never an evacuation plan for the island. Yet, they went ahead anyway.The unions were happy. things like steamfitters spending a day putting in a gauge, then at the end of the day, breaking the glass. then spending the next two days removing broken gauge and then reinstalling it.There was a free for all in contract handouts.But the big money, went to materials suppliers. What was stated before it was even close to being finished, was this scenerio:
    first it will be built, with billions in cost overruns
    then, it won’t get a license, without an evacuation route.Then will come the contracts to widen the expressway.which won’t be enough. But yes it was done. Then without a full license, it will be started up. And it was. This was to fulfill contractual obligations and recieve full payments. And it will never be opened, but it will be “dirty”, and then the contracts to clean up a dirty reactor will be enormous, and open to increase….and it was..LILCO went under… and now LIPA is charging everyone on that island in perpetuity for the fiasco.That is still costing everyone money….All that was known before the job was finished. and all that has/is happening….

    Now with crystal river, we have duke energy,who recently bought progress energy. They have already been charging all their customers for the cost of energy that no one is getting.Duke energy and their paid for politician, the gov. of north carolina,pat mccrory, is trying to pass legislation so he can get rid of the entire regulatory commission, and appoint his cronies.. which will hand back these “costs” to the rate payers…as progress energy was charging their customers for the mistakes at their shoddy plant(there was a crack in the containment shell, that turned into many cracks when they got done “fixing” it),but regulators said they couldn’t just charge the ratepayers for their mistake…..but that decision will likely be rectified…
    Then there is the leaking storage at hanford in washington state?

    Nuclear energy is a dangerous and insanely expensive alternative.Especially here in the south, where the sun does shine. and as parabolic solar steam generators have proven(over the last 100 plus years),solar is an inexpensive and reliable option.And there is no waste. No accidents. thery are cheaper and faster to build…
    There is no debate. nuclear is folly.And only industry estimations can make it seem like nuclear needs to be in our energy portfolio…The reality is far from it. It always costs more. Clean-up is always left out.end of cycle costs are never figured in..even the fuel is open to cost increases….no matter how you cut it…. nuclear energy is bad.
    That said, there is no use shutting down any plants before their time.Considering we don’t have anyway to dispose of them, they may as well be there producing energy.
    But to create more future nightmares, is criminal.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorHAL

      OK. Let’s invent an energy source that recreates temperatures on the surface of the sun in order to boil water; that uses the most toxic substances known to man to run; substances that retain their toxicity in some cases for millenia; that happen to also be the basis for the most monstrously deadly weapons systems ever invented; and that requires unbelievably complex technology and reliability to stay functional, with utterly dire consequences for any failure.
      Or:
      Let’s put up a propeller attached to a magneto in a windy place
      Or:
      Let’s build a flat panel of inert silicon layers that encourages electrons to jump from one layer to the next, and aim it at the sun

      1. rob

        Like there is even a question!For most sane realistic people.
        But obama and stephen chu came right out of the gates in 2008, and gaurenteed 56 billion dollars in loan gaurentees to the nuclear industry.Did they offer anything to american renewables?besides the chump change the republicans incessantly harp on with solyndra.Or the money they like giving to that behemoth spanish solar company.Even the solar parabolic /steam generator slated to have been built in arizona, was left wanting…last I saw.after waiting for years.

      2. holygrail

        Create a metal flying machine that burns toxic fossil waste in the air and needs huge land massess for taking off and a lot of infraestructure and engineering.
        OR
        Use a sale bicycle from walmart
        OR
        Just carry some carrots to feed the donkey

        The world needs to fly. The world needs a certain power (translated in a certain EROEI). We don’t even need to question whether this is right or wrong, it’s what’s going to happen and nothing short of a global cataclism will stop it now so we’d better start figuring out ways of doing it without ruining the planet.

        We need more renewable usage, including wind and solar. We need a lot more research in them, specially solar. But it won’t be enough in the short/medium term, and nuclear is still better than fossils.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorHAL

          Your attempted rebuttal doesn’t work. In my example, we get the SAME THING, whether it’s via toxic nuclear energy or benign solar & wind, in the end we get the KwH we need. In your example we have apparently to chose between air travel and a bicycle or a donkey. Fail.

          1. holygrail

            In one case we want energy in another case we want to travel from one location to another. In both cases there’s a comparison of achieving that with a clean but inneficient method and with a dirty but efficient one. That was my point.

            No, we don’t get the same KWh. Please do some reading on it, we just can’t support the world’s energy comsumption with wind and solar. The most optimistic study I’ve ever read that achieves anything close to that assumed that we consume half of the energy we do now. Energy consumption basically = progress so consume half means going back decades. Even if you convinced USA to implement that, would you be able to convince China? India? Russia? We need to be realistic, the discussion about energy is not as simple as “this is cleaner, duh”, we need to understand that there’s going to be a compromise between efficiency and other factors.

            So, the world is going to consume more energy than we can provide with wind and solar alone, at least on the medium term (long term I think it’s very likely that solar+clean nuclear is the winning hand). Instead of polluting the planet and creating climate upheaval burning fossil fuels, fission nuclear is our best alternative for a backbone, combined with aggresive reseach in solar to start improving EROEI (it’s getting better and better but still not there). Of course use wind where it makes sense but it will only produce a fraction of what’s needed.

  12. Tim

    By most accounts the decommissioning of the “Three Yankee” plants in New England(Connecticut Yankee, Yankee Rowe, and Maine Yankee) has gone successfully. Very little evidence of the plants existence even exists on site. The primary issue is the still remaining onsite spent storage. However, a recent court ruling by the court of Federal Claims puts the onus on the Federal Government to pay for this upkeep not electricity ratepayers. However, it will still be a fairly complex process for the former operators to collect these sums.

    1. Lidia

      TPTB are still fighting to keep the aging Vermont Yankee open. Its license has expired and the state denied it a new one, but it’s been operating la-di-da nonetheless without one, while Entergy (the owners who picked it up knowing that its license was about to run out) appeals in court. The appeals process does not look good on paper for the state, since there seems to be an enjoinment from ever and under any circumstances considering SAFETY as an aspect of state licensing of nuclear plants.

      Fuck me! Why is a state conceded the power to license ANYthing (from nail salons to doctors, from lawyers to landfills) if not with the idea of keeping the public safe?

      Entergy’s arguments are that even in considering ECONOMIC impacts -IF LINKED TO SAFETY (such as diminished tourism) in however remote a way- are not valid for the Public Service Board to consider in the granting of an operating license. Since any operational OR economic feature of the plant COULD conceivably be tied to safety, the state licensing process is held out to be a sham if it can be defeated in this way.

      The fact that Entergy lied about leaks and maintenance issues? Sorry! That’s a SAFETY concern and may not be taken into account when considered whether Entergy is fit to run the plant! It’s like Alice in Wonderland… just a total mind fuck.

    2. Lidia

      And I don’t know about you, but if I’m found driving without a license, they impound my car, isn’t that so? It’s not like I’d get to drive around for a couple of years anyway, while my lawyer negotiates with the DMV…

  13. briansays

    not to mention those plants in which upgrades were done but apparently defectively

    google san onofre

    conveniently located next to Interstate 5 in OC So. Cali

  14. McMike

    In general, when asked the question: “who will pay the cost of cleaning up after a private industry…” it is safe to answer: the taxpayers.

  15. Ep3

    Yves, this was all planned out years ago. A perfect storm of poor budgeting and financing by governments. We can’t afford SS and Medicare cuz it’s gonna cost so much to take care of other things.

  16. The Dork of Cork.

    The Lithuania plants shut down in 2009 killed many more people then the Chernobyl era plant was ever capable of doing at meltdown.

    Many 1000s 10,000s 100,000s ? will die early from fuel & other poverty as they still exist in a industrial landscape but without any industry.

    If you want a industrial (debt based) monetary and physical system you need nuclear.
    Its as simple as that – otherwise you get a implosion of systems.

    If The remaining capital base needs to be transfered from house , road and car consumption / maintaince to sustain basic life support systems then so be it.

    Freeze new house & road and car built………..Then I am sure you will find the physical resources as it is all about Physical resource management , now in a catastrophic petro orbited world of heat decay.

    The data as from Eurostat
    SHOCKING .
    WAR LIKE LOSS OF ENERGY SYSTEMS.

    Eurostat energy production and dependence rates 2008 -2011.

    http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/8-13022013-BP/EN/8-13022013-BP-EN.PDF

    Lithuania has gone through what appears a second post Soviet collapse with the closure of its unit 2 reactor in dec 2009.

    A 24.5 % collapse in consumption is major war stuff.

    Lithuania import dependence was 51.2 % in 2009
    81.8 % in 2011

    Wow !!
    This is a HUGE difference.
    So despite a collapse in consumption its import dependence reached almost Irish levels after shutdown.

    Germany is in a very poor energy dependence position.
    Almost as bad as Greece.

    Greece Y2009 : 67.8 %
    Y2011 : 65.3 %

    Germany Y2009 : 61.6 %
    Y2011 : 61.1 %
    Not much of a improvement despite the much vaunted energy fetishes that Germany gets up to.
    2012 is likely to be much worse for Germanys import dependency given their Nuclear shutdown policy.
    It may indeed reach Greek levels soon !!!
    Why ?
    Germany is a entrepot economy – perhaps the most extreme example in the entire European entrepot.

    In contrast France seems much more successful for the moment (although some factions within the socialist party wish to shut down the French nuclear programme also)

    French energy import dep.
    Y2009 : 51.3 %

    Y2011 : 48.9 %

    This is a result of the foundation like sci -fi islands it has built. on the backs of the Greeks ? as well as falls in car consumption although before the second major almost 2009 like falls of 2012.

    Ireland however has increased its dependence despite epic falls in consumption.

    Y2009 : 88%
    Y2011 : 88.9 %

    The Euro will always seek to replace capital with more capital
    It will never seek to replace capital with labour.
    Which means core (energy) capital must be reduced – however efficiently it is burned.
    I.e the Euro region is incapable of creating net capital.

    Lithuania had a skilled nuclear workforce once.
    Why did not Europe provide the funds to replace the reactor thus preserving wealth and the workforce ?

    I actually worked with a girl who came from the Lithuania nuclear town.
    According to her the closure of unit 1 (unit 2 had yet to come) had devastated the town & apparently the national economy.

    OK it was a dangerous reactor but the EU never gave them the resources to built a modern PWR – given the nuclear labour expertise of the area it was a no brainer.

    They are not very politically aware people – the elite within the west just saw them as units to drive down their domestic labour costs / extraction of labour value so there was no need to invest in the region.

    Their workforce was more valuable to the fat controllers of the west………….so you ship them west so as to drive down unit labour costs in the richer western countries.
    Its as simple as that I am afraid.

  17. mikkel

    I am very skeptical of capitalist industrialism and don’t buy into the idea that our only choice is to continue it or go back to the stone age. Permaculture concepts can easily reduce the amount of energy required to do most things by 90%, which can be covered with renewables…particularly if we go back to a seasonal manufacturing pattern.

    That said, I encourage everyone to read Prescription for the Planet. It is the only pollyanna vision I find even remotely plausible from both a scientific and cultural level. It addresses most of the technical AND social critiques above.

  18. jfleni

    NUKE WASTE.
    The “Golden Spike” web site says “Private sector human expeditions to the Moon are now feasible and profitable without government funding”

    Why not with multiple-government funding: Dump this leftover nuke stuff far away?

    Really the only safe place for the hot nuke detritus of Chernyoble (the sarcophagus is now at the end of its design life), the multiple tons of increasing nuke waste and fuel accumulating for a half-century in Japan, USA and Europe would be on the moon, where the recent GRAIL project has found many of the likely caves, caverns, craters and voids perfect and safe for this purpose. But the universal answer by the Mad scientists and their quack engineers (“Let’s punch another hole in the containment there bubba!”)seems to be “No, No We cannot do it!

    Expeditions to store this really dangerous and very acccident-prone stuff could take most of a century and really start serious space exploration and scientific research, and solve a pressing problem at the same time.

    Don’t let Europeans BS everybody that they have never had problems; as a Radio Officer on an a US container ship in the late-1980s, I clearly remember the panic and alarm caused by the near sinking of a shipload of French nuke waste in the English Channel in the middle of the night! British ships and commerce would have found themselves confined to their tight little island for a very long time, while the French would have had to travel very far out of the way to get anywhere.

    Launches from Florida or California would probably be too risky, but launches from the new VOSTOCHNY cosmodrome in NE Siberia being built right now, or Korou French Guiana, would probably work. Both places are next to vast stretches of open ocean. The USA high-tech sector could benefit greatly, if they act sensible and cooperate with the Russians and Europeans, and private concerns like Golden Spike. If they are too dumb inside the beltway, let the Russians, Europeans, and Golden Spike get the gold.

  19. Veri

    Silly question about who will pay for it. The public will.

    And a $104 billion dollar price tag, complete with a 25,000 year price tag to store the waste?

    Yes, nuclear is REALLY the cheap, clean energy alternative. LOL.

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