Tag Archives: nuclear power

Friday Funny: Nuclear Edition

From federal Green Party riding executive Patrick Metzger, via Torontoist:

The Ontario government will spend around $27 billion on nuclear power between now and 2025 in a bid to keep the lights on in the province. If history is any indicator, the nuke plans will be characterized by inefficiencies, unanticipated delays,and massive cost overruns, but will at least ensure that future generations have access to a secure supply of radioactive waste.

Nuclear Still Not Safe

Aside from all the other reasons, two more news stories today remind us that nuclear power still is an unwise and dangerous investment.

In Germany, the BBC reports:

German Mishaps Put Nuclear Power under Scrutiny

The company at first said it was just a small fire. But the blaze at Vattenfall’s Krümmel reactor has since become a political wildfire. Now, Germany’s pro-nuclear energy politicians have gone into hiding.

And in Japan:

Officials at the world’s biggest nuclear power plant said on Tuesday there had been more minor radiation leaks after an earthquake in Japan that killed nine people and forced thousands from their homes.

The latest admissions by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) have reignited fears about nuclear safety in a country that relies on atomic power for one-third of its electricity but has faced repeated cover-ups of past accidents by atomic power utilities…

…TEPCO had initially said the earthquake had not caused any leaks, but it revealed on Monday night that 1,200 liters of radioactive water had sloshed into the sea from its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata…

…Then on Tuesday, TEPCO officials confirmed a media report that said about 100 drums containing nuclear waste at a warehouse had fallen over and “several” lost their lids.

As If It Wasn’t Expensive Enough

As if nuclear power wasn’t expensive enough, $1.2-million of Ontario tax dollars have gone into marketing it and other forms of generation.

[Ontario Power Generation] has dramatically stepped up the advertising that promotes various electricity sources. In 2004, it spent only $25,000, almost entirely for its nuclear program. This year, up to May 16, the total had already reached $661,000, with $261,000 earmarked for promoting nuclear power, $250,000 for hydroelectric power and $150,000 for coal.

How much did the OPG spend on promoting conservation, the cheapest and most realistic answer to our energy crisis? Around $150K — eight times less than the amount spent promoting the other sources.

In May 2005, Dwight Duncan, Ontario’s Minister of Energy, called for an “open and public debate” on nuclear power. It’s bad enough that the government is now planning to spend a minimum of $40,000,000,000.00 on new nuclear power having had absolutely no public debate of any kind, they don’t need to also use my tax dollars to try and convince me it’s a good idea.

In related news, the federal government recently used some of our money on focus groups to find out what people think of the Ministry of Public Safety’s website. The focus group told them they didn’t like the emphasis placed on Stockwell Day’s photo while using the word “propaganda” a few times. The photo is now gone from the front page.

Arguments Against Nuclear Power

I randomly came across this website the other day. It took me a little longer than it should have to realize it was a sarcastic joke, but once I got there I was quite amused. Ilovenukes.ca (which appears to be a project of Greenpeace) is a mocking and timely look at nuclear power, and the misinformation that we’re being fed about it. (Timely, because nuclear power has been back in the news recently, and will likely should be a major issue in the next provincial election.)

When I first joined the Green Party a few years ago, I was reluctant to declare myself anti-nuclear. What I’d heard and read had led me to believe that nuclear power was a good solution to our energy needs, especially in the context of the need to fight climate change. What I’ve learned since then has changed my mind. In fact, by using the keywords “affordable, reliable, and clean” in their PR campaigns, it’s almost as if the nuclear industry thought it would be funny to identify their greatest weaknesses and try and convince us they were actually strengths.

For many, of all the arguments against nuclear, none are more convincing than the economic ones. Nuclear power plants are insanely expensive to build, insanely expensive to maintain, almost always go over budget, and require ongoing hidden government subsidization in the form of expensive insurance and other financial support. For example, the Darlington plant was originally budgeted at $2.5 Billion and came in at $14.4 Billion. In fact, we have an entire corporate entity in Ontario dedicated to managing the debt that we still have left over from the nuclear plants we’ve already built. And now, Dalton McGuinty is proposing to spend another $40,000,000,000 on new plants. That works out to about $4000 per individual, or $16,000 for a household of four. Imagine the investments that could be made in conservation and decentralized, local generation for that kind of money. Now try and imagine anyone wanting to pay for nuclear power if they had to pay the true, full cost.

Our history with nuclear power in Ontario has taught us that it’s anything but. Reactors go down more often and for longer periods of time than they’re supposed to. And when a nuclear reactor goes down, it’s a big, expensive, time-consuming problem to fix (in stark contrast to, say, if a wind turbine stops turning for a few hours or even days).

It’s simply untrue to claim that nuclear is “emissions free.” While it does have fewer direct emissions than coal, the process of mining and transporting the radioactive uranium is a dirty and fossil-fuel-dependent process. Then, of course, there’s the little issue of the waste that’s left over.

Centralized forms of electricity generation like nuclear are fundamentally less secure than decentralized ones like small-scale hydro, wind and solar, geothermal, and demand shifting. Never mind the fact that in 2003 one tree branch was able to take down the electrical grid of the entire eastern seaboard (a result of rigid, centralized systems), nuclear power plants make great targets for terrorists. I’d suggest we don’t need any more targets in a time when our own senate says we can’t even secure our airports.

Nuclear Weapons?
On a related note, there’s a closer connection between nuclear power and nuclear weapons than we’d generally like to admit. There are therefore ethical implications not only to developing nuclear power domestically, but also to selling our technology internationally.

Nuclear power is unsustainable on two counts, and on a relatively short timeline. First, nuclear power is dependent–throughout many stages of production–on fossil fuels. Now that geologists are debating not if we’re going to run out of easily accessible oil, but when, the reality is that nuclear power will become increasingly expensive and unfeasible as we pass peak oil and descend down the unsatisfying dénouement on the other side. Second, there is a finite amount of available and appropriate uranium in the world. According to National Geographic, “readily available uranium fuel won’t last much more than 50 years.” Technological advancements will no doubt draw this number out (maybe 100 years? 150?), but it’s worth keeping in mind, especially when taking into account how long it takes to build a nuclear power plant in the first place (about 12 years).

As I’ve mentioned throughout this post, there are lots of alternatives to nuclear. Proponents of nuclear power will always counter by pointing out that there’s nothing else that can produce the huge amount of electricity that nuclear does, and they’re right. But that doesn’t make all of the above problems magically disapear. The bottom line is, we need to use less energy.

ps. Oops, apparently I’m repeating myself, and getting more verbose in my old age.