Getting Real About Nuclear Power

May 14, 2015


A new study puts as positive spin as you’re likely to see on the nuclear industry’s future.  Nuclear power’s problems don’t come from Jane Fonda, or  hippies carrying signs. They’ve been baked in from the beginning, with unrealistic expectations, poor technology choices, and over eager promotion.


Nuclear power can play a modest, but important, role in avoiding catastrophic global warming — if it can solve its various problems including high construction cost without sacrificing safety.

That is the conclusion of a comprehensive 2015 “Technology Roadmap” from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). It is also what I’ve been arguing on Climate Progress for a long, long time.

Because it is a low-carbon source of around-the-clock (baseload) power, a number of scientists and others have called for a reexamination of nuclear policy. The Chinese in particular have been building nuclear power plants at a steady pace. Yet very few new plants have been ordered and built in the past two decades in countries with market economies, such as the United States, which derives a fifth of its power from nuclear. That is primarily because new nuclear plants are so costly, but also because dealing with the radioactive nuclear waste remains problematic and the costs of an accident are so enormous.

In particular, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan slowed the rate of new plant construction starts. In 2014 there were only three new plants put under construction.

I’ve posted before on the continuing problems at Georgia’s Vogtle nuclear facility, the first newly licensed plant to be built in the country in decades. It was a no brainer to predict that cost overruns and construction delays would continue – that’s been industry standard from the beginning – and indeed, that pattern continues.

Associated  Press:

Regulators say there’s a “high probability” a nuclear plant under construction in Georgia will be delayed even longer than the three years already announced by its owners, according to an analysis obtained by The Associated Press.

Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power and its co-owners are building two more nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle in eastern Georgia. A project using the same reactor design, Westinghouse Electric Co.’s AP1000, is underway at the Summer nuclear station in South Carolina, which has seen similar delays.

The first new reactor in Georgia was supposed to start operating in April 2016, with the second reactor following a year later. In January, Georgia Power announced the consortium designing and building the plant, Westinghouse and Chicago Bridge & Iron Co., expected the construction schedule would be delayed by more than three years. Those companies remain locked in a legal dispute about who should pay the resulting costs.

Those delays may prove a best-case scenario, according to an April 28 analysis by nuclear engineer William Jacobs Jr. and staff utility regulators at the Georgia Public Service Commission. The AP obtained a copy of the report using Georgia’s open records law.

Key deadlines set in the lengthened schedule from January had been delayed by March. For example, a two-month delay developed in the timeline to get a large section of the plant ready to be hoisted into place. The timeframe for beginning concrete work on walls also slipped two months. Likewise, the deadline for installing a key protective barrier at the plant went backward three months.

Because the contractors have struggled to manage the schedule and have little track record of adapting, “additional delays have a high probability of being realized which would extend the units’ in-service dates beyond the total current delay of 39 months,” regulators said in the report.

Time is money in the nuclear power industry. The longer building a power plant takes, the more utility companies must pay in construction and borrowing costs. Ultimately, electric customers will pay for the plant’s costs unless regulators intervene. A single day of delay will cost Georgia Power roughly $2 million, according to estimates from regulators.

Below, Ray Henry of the Associated Press reports on the 36 year struggle to complete the TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor. What he gets mostly, (unusual for mainstream media), right, and underlined in an interview here, is that the nuclear industry was already on life support even before the very expensive Three Mile Island debacle. Many projects were already in trouble, and the utilities that were constructing them had clearly overestimated electric demand, not just due to an economic slowdown, as Henry states, but also because electric demand, thought to be an absolute lock-step requirement for economic growth, turned out to be much more elastic than thought.

When power prices went up following the rise of OPEC in the early 70s, customers, especially  big industrial customers, found they could do the same jobs without nearly as much energy input.  The predicted power demand – based on a constant 7 percent increase in post war boom years, (doubling every 10 years) evaporated.

Three Mile Island finished off a number of projects mainly because the safety flaws that were uncovered in the accident, (which regulators knew about due to test failures as early as 1971) proved extremely costly to remedy, especially for projects that were well underway. Years of bankruptcies and bailouts followed.

Ray Henry for Associated Press:

If nothing else, the second reactor at the Tennessee River site is a cautionary tale for the power industry. When it’s finished, it will provide enough electricity to power about 650,000 homes in the Tennessee Valley. The cost of running a nuclear plant is relatively steady, and it does not produce greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.

But they are enormously expensive and complicated to build. The project ran decades late. In the early years, workers struggled to meet safety rules and ran up billion-dollar cost overruns.

TVA vastly overestimated the demand for electricity decades ago. In 1966, it announced plans to build 17 nuclear reactors in Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. By 1985, TVA canceled plans for almost half those reactors because of a slumping economy and spiraling construction costs.

The construction of Watts Bar 1 proved a big mess. Regulators approved construction in 1973. A dozen years later, TVA officials requested permission to load the plant’s radioactive fuel. However, whistleblowers raised concerns about construction, prompting lengthy delays and inspections. In a 1995 summary, NRC inspectors reported they found poorly welded metal, electrical cables that were damaged during installation, and quality assurance records with missing or incorrect information.

It took until 1996 to get the first reactor running.

TVA deferred work on its second reactor, which sat unused and was cannibalized for parts. A contractor, Bechtel Power Corp., estimated in 2007 that finishing it would cost $2.5 billion over five years. The estimate badly missed the mark. The latest projections show the costs will be around $4.3 billion – more expensive than a natural gas plant, but cheaper than building a nuclear plant from scratch.

The utility says its electrical demand is relatively flat. Starting the nuclear plant will allow it to shutter dirtier coal-fired plants. It’s also a long-term hedge in case natural gas prices rise in the future, TVA President Bill Johnson said.

We continue to hear about new kinds of nuclear plants, new designs that resolve the problems of safety, waste, and most critically, nuclear weapons proliferation.  From my perspective, if you’ve got a technology, have at it, build it and see if they come – but recent rapid development in renewable energy, and the highly competitive, for now, price of gas turbines, is making the road ahead for nuclear daunting at best.


Most ominously, many feel that, looming out there in the future, are new catastrophic events as serious as Fukushima or Chernobyl – events that would certainly deal a blow to nuclear’s role worldwide.

MIT Technology Review:

Given that most countries with nuclear power intend to keep their reactors running and that many new reactors are planned, an important goal is to better understand the nature of risk in the nuclear industry. What, for example, is the likelihood of another Chernobyl in the next few years?

Today, we get an answer thanks to the work of Spencer Wheatley and Didier Sornette at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and Benjamin Sovacool at Aarhus University in Denmark. These guys have compiled the most comprehensive list of nuclear accidents ever created and used it to calculate the likelihood of other accidents in future.

Their worrying conclusion is that the chances are 50:50 that a major nuclear disaster will occur somewhere in the world before 2050. “There is a 50 per cent chance that a Chernobyl event (or larger) occurs in the next 27 years,” they conclude.


51 Responses to “Getting Real About Nuclear Power”

  1. No mention of nuclear waste disposal. What’s with that?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      No one wants to talk about nuclear “waste”. Back in the early days they just put a lot of it in 55 gallon drums and dumped it in the ocean—-an awful lot right off the CA coast. They tried “reprocessing”, but that is difficult and expensive, and some “wastes” still remain when done. They then though it would be a good idea to just bury it and came up with the Yucca Mountain Repository idea, which is still unrealized.

      In actuality, the one big saving grace of nuclear waste is that it is compact and doesn’t take up much space compared to the huge volumes of CO2, coal ash, toxic metals, etc. that result from burning fossil fuels (and that we so casually dump into the environment). As long as it isn’t released into the environment, it does little harm.

      Nuclear waste can be sealed in casks or big blocks of concrete and left to sit on “parking lots” for centuries. Yes, to some extent that’s just kicking the can down the road, but CO2 and AGW are much bigger worries right now.

      A lot of people ARE “scared” of nuclear power, it IS very expensive, but it does need to be considered if it looks like SHTF time is getting near. Hansen et al recognize that.

      The problems we are having constructing the newer plants are because we are allowing the “capitalists” to control the process. When the SHTF, I for one hope that the government takes complete control a la Manhattan Project.

  2. Paul Magnus Says:

    next major nuke accident due… soon.

    That will bury it.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      SOON? You have inside knowledge of this? Where and when will it happen? I’m sure the insurance companies would like to know.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      thanks for reminding me. see update

      • dumboldguy Says:

        RE: the update—-tracking back through the MIT article into reading the original paper leads into depths of “statistics” that go beyond my study of the subject. If I ever learned much about Pareto distributions and “tails”, I soon forgot them.

        I do know enough to feel a slight wiggle in my crap detectors as I read the study. The authors have made some assumptions that are questionable—their “most comprehensive list of nuclear accidents ever created” includes many minor “events” (the cost only had to exceed $50,000 to be included, and a good multi-car wreck on the interstate will exceed that). They admit that the huge cost of the most recent events like Fukushima and Chernobyl has likely skewed their “calculations of the likelihood of other accidents in the future” because of the “tail” factor. Their model is simply a statistical tool that they suggest offers ONE way to look at nuclear risk and that it offers a basis for further study—-IMO, it distorts the reality of the probabilities (also, the MIT folks are fear-mongering a bit in their talking about it).

        I think it’s telling that the authors try to put it all in perspective by making the following comment in their conclusions.

        “Our focus on the risks of civil nuclear power plants might give the impression that this industry is very risky indeed, more risky that other competing technologies such as coal or wind energy for instance”.

        “Due to the more diluted nature of the costs, the quasi-hysteric focus on nuclear risks following the Fukushima disaster may hide an insidious villain: it has been estimated that there are about 58 000 premature deaths each year in Europe and tens of billions of euros are spent on health spending; 7 million people a year worldwide, including more than a million Chinese, die each year from air pollution by fine particles, according to a 25 March 2014 release of the World Health Organization (”

        • j4zonian Says:

          That’s not the choice. The age of fossil fuels is over. Nuclear can never play any significant role in avoiding climate catastrophe and trying to make it do that will only further slow the real solutions. Only efficiency, conservation, changed lives and clean renewable energy can provide what we need while avoiding cataclysm, replacing fossil fuels with energy sources that are immensely more safe, clean, cheap, democratic, peaceful and sensible in every way.

      • joffan7 Says:

        Boy, whenever climate deniers quote fringe studies you have them for breakfast, and rightly so, but you’re quite willing to quote fringe fearmongers like Sovacool when it suits you.

        • jpcowdrey Says:

          Sovacool … fringe fearmonger? What? In what universe?

          • Remember his widely publicized study from a couple of years ago that claimed that nuclear power killed more birds than wind? That turned out to be little more than junk science, based on anecdotal evidence (such as: a single bad-weather bird kill at at *coal fired* power plant, attributed to nuclear, and assumed to occur annually; and a single bird kill at a *non-uranium* mine, attributed to nuclear, and assumed to occur annually.)

            That universe.

          • j4zonian Says:

            Keith Pickering,

            Since the entire argument about birds is based not only on anecdotal evidence but on utterly counterfactual lies spread by a cynical, whining-screaming crocodile-tear campaign by the Koch-Exxon-ALEC et al brigade, why are we even talking about this? The combination of efficiency, conservation, changed lives and solar, wind and other clean renewables is by far the most benign energy source humans have ever come up with. It’s the best thing we’ve done for wildlife for 10,000 years.

    • andrewfez Says:

      Scientific American just put out a nice looking infographic on the ages of the US plants:

      “After another transformer fire at the Indian Point nuclear facility on May 9, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo would like to see the power plant shut down for good. The aging nuclear power plant is in the midst of its application to the federal government for a license renewal, which would allow the two reactors on site to continue to harness fission to boil water for electricity generation for another 20 years. But with local, well-connected opposition like the governor, Indian Point’s days as a nuclear facility may be numbered no matter what federal regulators decide.”

      • dumboldguy Says:

        More Chicken Little stuff, and an excuse to dump on nukes. A fire in the transformer yard is not a reactor accident, and the reactor designers apparently got the design right because the reactor shut down as it was supposed to when the load dropped. Cuomo ought to get on the case of the people who designed the transformer yard—-we’ve been building them for a lot longer than we have reactors, they’re a lot simpler, and we ought to be able to do them right by now.

        • andrewfez Says:

          Looking at the ages on that infographic, it seems like the US has an pretty tough climb ahead of them if they want to keep the fleet going; whether that means replacing transformers or beg, borrowing and stealing parts form China, etc. [Some parts only have one manufacture; some only come from overseas.]

          Germany kinda went backwards, where any carbon offsets they’re getting from their renewables are going to replacing nukes, and they’re not getting a good drop in CO2 output. If they had closed the coal plants first, then decommissioned their reactors at their shelf-life date, then that would have been more satisfying, regarding looking at a CO2 output chart for the country.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Yep. Just as there are still quite a few 70+ year old B-17’s and C-47’s flying, and lots of 1950’s cars on the roads, we can keep most of the nukes working for quite some time IF we want it badly enough. It’s only a matter of $$$ and will.

            I have commented many times about how we need to stop talking about GERMANY and focus on INDIA and COAL. Germany fell prey to the “quasi-hysteric focus on nuclear risks following the Fukushima disaster” that IS “hiding an insidious villain”.

  3. Scott Morton Says:

    Hey Peter,

    Love your blog!

    I periodically look at Dr. Roy Spencer’s satellite-based global average temperature graph to see what the satellites were registering. I found it interesting because this guy is a denier, but the graphs used to show a gradual but steady increase in global average temperatures. Even recently.

    I noticed this time, however, that he has moved to V6.0 of his chart and it no longer shows this steady increase over time. Check it out:

    Is this guy and his graph a Crock or what? I think I already know the answer but wondering your take. Is there a better location to obtain satellite-based temperature readings?


  4. How does anybody talk about a nuclear revival after what’s happened with Fukushima?Nobody knows where the fuel is from Reactors 1 and 2, the area surrounding the reactors is so radioactive that nobody can operate a robot near it, and nobody has a timeline on stopping the daily leak of 300 tons of highly irradiated water into the Pacific. Never mind the issue of where we put the waste.

  5. Is nuclear really that bad? Have you seen a documentary called Pandoras promise? If not, you should – everyone should. Dont know how accurate the facts are in this doc but the claims surely are interesting.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      the most compelling argument against a nuclear based global economy is the news we read every day about negotiations with Iran in regard to their nuclear program. there are a lot of people willing to start WWIII to keep the Iranians, and others, from developing nuclear energy, which, historically is linked to weapons.
      Do we have a list of countries that we will NOT bomb and invade if they develop advanced nuclear programs?

      • joffan7 Says:

        Wow, that has to be the flimsiest “most compelling argument” I’ve heard in a while. How about all those countries that already have nuclear power – you know, basically all the ones that actually have high energy requirements right now – simply ramp up their production and development of nuclear power? That would do a lot to displace fossil.

        Developing nuclear energy is not linked to weapons in the way you are implying. That’s “historically” a big fat anti-nuclear lie that has been shouted as loud as possible, so there is that “historical” linkage, though.

        The issue with Iran is almost entirely about uranium enrichment, not nuclear power, which could easily be handled in a reasonably diverse list of “safe” countries. However, ” a list of countries that we will NOT bomb and invade” for any arbitrary reason, real or fictional, would indeed be hard to come by.

        • greenman3610 Says:

          If you have some advice for Secretary Kerry and the multi national negotiating team, please don’t withhold it. By all means, this is a big international issue, on a big international stage, and should get you all the attention you crave.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “Do we have a list of countries that we will NOT bomb and invade if they develop advanced nuclear programs?”

        Assuming “advanced nuclear programs” means nuclear weapons, how about Great Britain, France, China, the USSR, India, Pakistan, Israel, South Africa, and North Korea?

        No one is advocating a GLOBAL nuclear based economy at this point, only that nuclear power should be part of the mix that is used to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Nuclear power plants do not necessarily lead to nuclear weapons, and of the 30 some countries that operate over 430 nuclear power plants, only a few have developed nuclear weapons, and nearly all of those did so a long time ago.

        Iran (and North Korea) are special cases (actually nut cases) and shouldn’t be set up as straw men in any argument that “nuclear energy historically is linked to weapons”. (And who are the “others” we are willing to go to WWIII over if they develop weapons? Canada? Australia? Mexico?)

      • andrewfez Says:

        The most compelling reason is economic. Amory Lovins once said that if you steal money from your efficiency retrofits budget to build a nuclear plant, the loss of carbon offset from such venture would ‘create’ more CO2 than if that same dollar amount was used to build a new coal plant (scaling to a traditional $/MWh price and CO2 ton/MWh). It’s a mind game, but the idea is that nuclear is so expensive, it would be better to use the money on efficiency updates; you get more for your money. At least in efficiency updates, public money can be leveraged fluidly, on any scale, by promising a % of a project will be funded by the G; this attracting private money that’s already got skin in the game (property owners) to join the cause. When the G goes nuclear, the scale is rigid, and quantized into billion dollar range, and the private capital feels more crony-ist, as it’s getting a guaranteed profit from rate payers via the old school model [enter the Green Tea Partiers].

        Yet in the end, I think it should be left to democratic will to determine if a state should go nuclear to fulfill its carbon reduction obligations. However it should be informed democratic will where a risk/benefit analysis is done. Basically you multiply the probabilities of bad things, by the costs associated with each of those things and then do the same for alternative sources of energy and compare; do the same process for the benefits and add all that junk together to maximize your value and minimize costs; it gets a little tricky because you have to quantify the value of human life, but that’s where the democratic part comes into play.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Well said, but we are going to dither around until SHTF time, and then we will throw uncounted amounts of $$$ at the problem. As long as the economists, capitalists, and politicians are in charge, we will perhaps make SOME of the the right decisions (but for the wrong reasons), and may make them to late to make a difference.

          And the authors of the ?50% chance of disaster by 2050″ study DID “quantify the value of human life” and applied it to their statistical analysis,—-$6 million was the figure they used.

          From Wiki: “The following estimates have been applied to the value of life. The estimates are either for one year of additional life or for the statistical value of a single life.

          $50,000 per year of quality life (international standard most private and government-run health insurance plans worldwide use to determine whether to cover a new medical procedure) [5]
          $129,000 per year of quality life (based on analysis of kidney dialysis procedures by Stefanos Zenios and colleagues at Stanford Graduate School of Business)[5]
          $9.1 million (Environmental Protection Agency, 2010)[6]
          $7.9 million (Food and Drug Administration, 2010)[6]
          $9.4 million (Transportation Department, 2015)
          $8.7 million (Prof. W. Kip Viscusi, Vanderbilt University, 2010)[6]”

          Those are figures from the US and the developed world. Because of the UN-democratic nature of run amok capitalism, a human life is worth a lot less in the developing world (where “democracy” is just a BS buzz word).

  6. webej Says:

    Everything in this discussion is about the traditional large-scale LWR reactors which represent the marriage of nuclear power to the military industrial complex (where decisions are guided by the need to obtain plutonium for bombs, subsidies, regulatory fiat and grant money).

    Nothing about alternative designs, 3rd/4th generation reactors, small-scale nuclear, LFTRs, alternatives to the U235 uranium cycle (such as thorium). The whole discussion is monolithic, as if saying the word “nuclear” immediately clues everybody in to all possibilities.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      I’m all about alternatives, if someone has one. Trouble at this point will be to catch up with renewables which are explosively growing.

  7. greenman3610 Says:

    news about current status of middle eastern summit meeting this week.

    “During the summit itself, reports emerged that Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are talking about matching Iran’s nuclear capacity if the US allows Iran to go ahead with some of its uranium enrichment under a final nuclear deal.

    as far as nukes in this country, if someone wants to build one, and can do it without complete government subsidy, have at it.

    • joffan7 Says:

      Good news then, more nuclear power equals less fossil burning. Oh wait, you were trying to make that some scary and negative, weren’t you?

      As for wind and solar, if someone wants to build them without guaranteed grid access or production subsidies, in competition with fracked gas operating with no penalty for CO2 emissions (which apparently isn’t very important any more), and with intense regulation which has to be paid for by the builder, go for it.

      I had hoped your position was “evolving”, but apparently not.

      • joffan7 Says:

        Oh, downvoters, we’re not allowed to talk about other subsidies? Or was it just impolite of me to hint at the underlying racism of assuming that Arabs shouldn’t have nuclear power?

    • Do us all a favor greenman3610: study good reasons to solve climate crisís with nuclear and then look again – critically and with an open mind – the negative sides of nuclear referred to other energy sources. Perhaps you could come to a different conclusion?

      I used to be anti-nuclear for more than 35 years. Now I am not so sure anymore (cognitive dissonace you know…)

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Correction. That’s “news of the middle eastern summit CIRCUS”. We are now trying to talk about diplomatic matters having global impacts to a bunch of people who would still be herding camels and goats if the West hadn’t discovered the “energy slaves” hidden in their oil and introduced them to capitalism.

      And now if they don’t get their way they’re threatening to eat some of the worms that we let out of the can many decades ago? By “matching Iran’s nuclear capability”? Big whoop! Iran is so far ahead of them that by the time they “match”, they will all be speaking Farsi. And the world will make it quite difficult for them to obtain the technology. And Israel may turn the whole region into a smoking radioactive parking lot if there is any real Arab “nuclear arms race” that they perceive as a threat to Israel.

      As far as “….as far as nukes in this country, if someone wants to build one, and can do it without complete government subsidy, have at it…” goes, that’s very generous of you. It sounds like you are actually in favor of us building more nukes, but are raising the straw man of “subsidy” as the biggest objection. If we got rid of GE, Bechtel, Westinghouse, and the others with vested interests in continuing to build the outmoded and risky PWR designs, we might move to the safer and likely cheaper newgen designs without “complete” government subsidy. We DO subsidize fossil fuels (and renewables), and should do the same and more for nukes, considering how much they can help us with the CO2 problem.

  8. Gingerbaker Says:

    India is breaking ground on a 0.75 Gigawatt solar PV plant. Here we see government smoothing the way for this project – obtaining the land easily and quickly; the World Bank is giving financing at very low interest.

    So here is the question: how does a large-scale solar PV plant, with the benefit of economy of scale and lowest possible cost (such as we Americans could enjoy if we had the Department of Energy building these things) compare to a new, best-design nuke plant?

    Solar PV cost per watt is supposed to be about $0.20 soon. A 1.0 gigawatt PV farm would have a cost of only $200 million for the panels. The largest nuclear plant is Palo Verde at 3.3 gWa – this will cost $660 million in panels at $0.20 per watt.

    Palo Verde took 12 years to build and cost ~ $6 billion in the 1980’s to build. What would it cost today?

    Surely PV panels are the most expensive part of a PV farm? Let’s double the cost of the panels – then a Palo Verde-equivalent size PV plant might cost $1.32 billion.

    So, $1.32 billion (maybe?) for a PV Palo Verde, vs $6 Billion in 1985 dollars for the nuke version. And construction cost for PV plant will be minuscule comparatively. And could likely be built in two years, not 12.

    Why are we even talking about nuclear?

    • For one reason that some of us are living between 50 and 70 degrees of nothern latitude….especially we who consume a lot….

      The winter here in Europe is long and dark and winds are uncertain so base load is needed. Effective batteries combined with renewambles are part of the solution, but with what cost, risk and schedule?

    • That 20 cents per Watt is the cost of the *cells*, not the cost of the installed panels. Solar is diffuse, and it takes a lot of structure to capture a modest amount of energy. Even if the cells could be made for free, all that other stuff — the electrical connections, the structural support, the glass covering, the inverter, the construction and installation costs of it all — would still make solar more expensive than wind, and more expensive than nuclear.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        I know that. I doubled the cost for rough calculations, thinking, perhaps wrongly, that standardized support structures, wires, etc would not cost that much comparatively.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      Pakistan, another country with nuke capability that some worry about has just opened a 100 MW plant in the Punjabi desert and will expand it to 300 MW in the next phase.
      Part of the benefit of closer ties with China.

      Let’s hope that the USA’s $10 billion in aid to them since 9/11 is going to equally worthy projects.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “Let’s hope that the USA’s $10 billion in aid to them since 9/11 is going to equally worthy projects”.

        You jest with “worthy”, of course. We have actually given ~$25 billion in aid since 9/11, and 2/3 of it was military (less than $9 billion was non-military). (And the Pakistanis hate us more than ever).

        • MorinMoss Says:

          Hmm, usually it’s people the USA has stolen from that hate the most so this seems like money well spent 😀

  9. Regarding the alleged dangers of proliferation, isn’t it time we put this canard to rest?

    Is the manufacture of Rolls-Royces a danger for the proliferation of napalm? Because you know, they both use gasoline.

    Of course not. If you want to make a napalm bomb, it is simply utterly unnecessary to obtain a Rolls-Royce for that purpose. It’s a needless and ridiculous expense.

    For exactly the same reason, if you want to make a nuclear bomb, it is utterly unnecessary to obtain a nuclear power plant for that purpose. It is an equally needless, and even more ridiculous, expense. And in fact, while you *could* siphon the gas tank of a Rolls to get your gasoline and put it directly into a napalm bomb, you could *not* use the nuclear fuel from a power plant in a nuclear bomb, unless you had enrichment facilities. And if you have the enrichment facilities, then you don’t need the power plant.

    Of the nine nations with nuclear weapons, eight made their first one without a working nuclear power plant. And of the 50000 or so nuclear bombs ever made, not one of them has ever used fuel from a power reactor as its fissile material.

    Peter, I realize that you’ve been conditioned by years of anti-nuke propaganda to accept every anti-nuclear argument without thinking, but you don’t have to stay in that place forever. You can think on your own. This is a good place to start.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      again, this information needs to be shared with Secretary Kerry, the multinational negotiating team, the US Congress, and the world press. Apparently a whole lot of worry over nothing.

  10. smithpd1 Says:

    In the last few decades, several small modular reactor designs have been proposed. These designs have feature that make them inherently safe. Circulating coolant removes the power in normal operation, but they do not depend on circulating coolant for last-ditch safety. With positive reactivity coefficients, they can shut themselves down. Even with a core disruption, they cool passively by natural convection.

    Many legacy reactors built in the past are not inherently safe. They need to be watched carefully. But this should not affect future decisions. Call it nuclear plan A (past) and nuclear plan B (future). Nuclear plan B should be developed.

    As I see it, the only impediment to future development of nuclear power is the waste disposal problem. That problem has been solved technologically. High level wastes can be separated, vitrified, and stored indefinitely in safe geological formations. Yucca Mountain would have worked. Waste disposal is a political problem, not a technical problem.

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