Idiotic Report Claims Nuclear Power Plants are “11 Trillion Dollar Risk”

May 1st, 2011

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Via the Associated Press (From Germany – Surprise Surprise!) (Presumably the dollar figure was translated from Euros for reprinting in the US)

Insurance cost vs. nuclear power risk
BERLIN — From the United States to Japan, it’s illegal to drive a car without sufficient insurance, yet governments around the world choose to run more than 440 nuclear power plants with hardly any coverage whatsoever.

In the United States, every nuclear power plant is required to maintain a minimum of $300 million in privately paid liability insurance. This is about the maximum that anyone can really hope to effectively get from private insurers, since much more would risk the insurance company itself would be unable to pay out. In addition to this, every plant operator pays into a shared risk insurance pool, which now totals over twenty billion dollars. Anything above that is government underwritten, since no private entity ever could guarantee such massive insurance burdens. Obviously these amounts are significantly higher than one could ever hope for most plant operators to ever be able to come up with on their own.

I don’t know the specifics of other countries, but most have some kind of insurance requirements.

Japan’s Fukushima disaster, which will leave taxpayers there with a massive bill, brings to the fore one of the industry’s key weaknesses — that nuclear power is a viable source for cheap energy only if it goes uninsured.

Governments that use nuclear energy are torn between the benefit of low-cost electricity and the risk of a nuclear catastrophe, which could total trillions of dollars and even bankrupt a country.

The bottom line is that it’s a gamble: Governments are hoping to dodge a one-off disaster while they accumulate small gains over the long-term.

It is a cheap source of energy even when heavily insured, which it generally is.

The Japanese have a huge bill from a Tsunami and earthquake. This may have been made worse by the fact that the government is continuing to enforce an unnecessary evacuation area, even after nearly all the iodine-131 in the reactors is gone, decay heat has been reduced and cooling is stabilized. But that’s the Japanese government’s fault if they want to continue to support the evacuation.

The cost of a worst-case nuclear accident at a plant in Germany, for example, has been estimated to total as much as $11 trillion, while the mandatory reactor insurance is only 3.7 billion.

11 trillion? Now you’ve gone from wrong to complete absurdity. You could completely destroy much of Germany and rebuild it all for less than that. We know. We’ve actually done it. Even if you adjust for inflation it comes nowhere close to $11 trillion. Even if you consider the increased costs of labor, infrastructure construction and the fact that there were costs that were locally-paid, it does not even come close.

I’d love to hear where this $11 trillion figure comes from. It’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.

From there on, the article pretty much says the same thing, claiming all nuclear plants should carry insurance for amounts of money that don’t even exist and adding in a few dramatic statements from “experts” on the matter. There is also the high and mighty claim that it’s unethical for a society to have to be burdened by the risk that a nuclear plant will suffer a cooling system failure and thus bankrupt superpowers.

There is, however, one statement I just can’t let pass:

A major nuclear accident is statistically extremely unlikely when human errors, natural disasters or terror attacks are excluded, but the world already has suffered three in just about thirty years — Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima.

No, actually a “major accident” is statistically extremely unlikely even when human errors, natural disasters and terrorist attacks are included.

Of the accidents listed, Chernobyl can legitimately be called a tragedy. People did indeed die because of the accident at Chernobyl, others suffered radiation poisoning. Chernobyl did result in some increase in thyroid cancer, although this is largely because of the fact that the Soviet Union responded very poorly to the accident and did not quickly implement the measures necessary to prevent this from happening, such as immediately warning citizens to stay indoors, quick evacuations and providing potassium iodine.

Three Mile Island continues to be used as an argument against nuclear energy, being equated to some kind of nightmare and cited as a “major accident” which we cannot allow to ever happen again. It’s amazing this argument actually holds water with anyone. Despite the fact that Three Mile Island did suffer multiple failures that resulted in no active cooling of the reactor 2 core, the result was hardly disastrous. In the end, nobody died, nobody was injured, nobody’s health was ever really in danger, no property beyond the plant was damaged, evacuations were not necessary and there was no measurable environmental damage.

Fukushima has likewise not resulted in any deaths and the only injuries to have occurred are a handful of non-life-threatening injuries to workers. No worker has been exposed to radiation levels high enough to cause acute radiation sickness and the worst case is that a few may have a slightly elevated risk of cancer. No member of the public has been exposed to radiation levels of concern. It is true that the Fukushima plant sustained massive amounts of damage and that the efforts to stabilize and secure the facility will be expensive, as will the loss of generating capacity.

Yet the expense of the damage to the Fukushima plant is not really the result of it being a nuclear facility. The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 was a disaster of historic proportions. All industrial structures that were subject to the quake and tsunami were destroyed or severely damaged. Transportation infrastructure, utilities, communications systems and structures all suffered many billions of dollars of damage.

The cost of securing Fukushima has been largely shouldered by TEPCO. Anti-nuclear activist like to point to any costs, however indirect, that may be paid by the government as proof that the nuclear industry is not responsible and that the events in Japan are more than just a horrible act of nature. Meanwhile, local and national government agencies in Japan continue to foot the bill for numerous other industrial disasters that occurred because the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. As a result of the quake, the Fujinuma Dam failed, washing away numerous homes and destroying roads and bridges. Four bodies have already been recovered from the Fujinuma dam failure flood area and four more residents are missing and presumed dead. A major fire broke out at the Chiba Oil Refinery, forcing workers to evacuate and leaving the Japanese military and local fire departments to fight the blaze until it was brought under control more than a week later. The Japanese will be paying for cleanup and environmental mitigation for a vast number of industries. The tsunami washed away everything from dry cleaners to chemical refineries.

And finally:

“Ultimately, it comes down to the question of how big a risk the society is ready to bear,” he said.

The majority of Germans and the political parties have concluded that the potential damage outweighs the benefits, and the country now stands alone among industrialized nations in its determination to overcome nuclear power.

Phasing out nuclear energy — which like in the U.S. produces a quarter of the country’s electricity — was meant to happen slowly over the next 25 years. But in the wake of Fukushima, the government seems determined to speed things up, possibly pulling the plug on the last reactors within a decade, gradually replacing them with renewable energies.

“No society has to bear the potentially enormous risk of a nuclear disaster,” Hohmeyer said.

What is not mentioned is that there is a source of energy that does indeed cost society billions of dollars directly and indirectly and kill enormous numbers of people: coal. However, (with the exception of mine accidents and dust explosions) coal does not kill because of an accident or mishap. Rather, it is during its normal mode of operation that coal kills and costs society enormously.

What society bears from coal:

  • Tens of thousands of premature deaths per year. By some estimates, more than 30,000 in the United States alone. Of course, these deaths are not as cut and dry as those killed in an accident. Rather, it represents the number of persons who would have lived longer if they had not been exposed to the pollution from coal fired power plants. Hundreds of thousands will see their health decline and face an early death every decade.
  • Millions of additional cases of asthma and respiratory ailments per year. Estimates vary quite widely, but it is universally agreed that coal pollution is responsible for many billions of dollars burdened by healthcare systems per year. By some estimates it could be as high as $345 billion dollars per year. The largest single utility in the United States, the TVA, estimates that its own coal burning contributes to tens of thousands of hospital visits and $26 billion in annual healthcare benefit costs.
  • Billions of dollars of damage due to acid rain, which has decimated freshwater fisheries, damaged forests around the world and resulted in erosion to numerous structures, even forcing some historic structures and sculptures to be brought indoors or covered to protect them from the effects of acid rain.
  • Production of millions of tons of toxic coal ash per year, with few regulations for disposal, often leaving governments to handle the costs of remediation and safe disposal.
  • Hundreds of mines around the world have caused or contributed to coal seam fires. Often the original companies responsible no longer exist, leaving government agencies to spend millions on controlling and containing these fires. Often it is not even possible to control the fires and, if they occur in inhabited areas, whole communities must be moved.
  • The complete destruction of natural features, including mountain top removal in the US Appalachians and elsewhere. In Germany, mining coal seems has lead to the destruction of huge areas of land and historic communities. The continuous digging for coal has lead to the forced relocation of many who had the misfortune of living in towns built in coal seems.
  • Pollution of major ground and surface water systems in coal mining areas, often resulting in the need for new potable water systems to be built.
  • Periodic spills of coal refuse, runoff and mining sludge. These spills are always environmentally destructive and may cost billions to clean up. On occasion they can be deadly.
  • Periodic mining accidents which cost the lives of miners each year. In addition to the cost in lives, when mines suffer cave-ins or other accidents, local emergency services and national agencies are usually the ones who must pay for the rescue efforts.
  • Coal burning is an enormous source of greenhouse gasses in addition to nitrous oxides, sulfur emissions and numerous other forms of pollution, a burden shared by the entirety of society.

This entry was posted on Sunday, May 1st, 2011 at 9:59 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Just LAME, Not Even Wrong, Nuclear. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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35 Responses to “Idiotic Report Claims Nuclear Power Plants are “11 Trillion Dollar Risk””

  1. 1
    DV82XL Says:

    When accidents happen, the deadliest and costliest source of energy is water – especially when it’s held back by poorly-designed dams. The Chernobyl disaster doesn’t come close to the damage done when a dam at a hydroelectric plant bursts.

    1975: Shimantan/Banqiao Dam Failure. Shimantan Dam in China’s Henan province fails and releases 15.738 billion tons of water, causing widespread flooding that destroys 18 villages and 1500 homes and induces disease epidemics and famine. Human lives lost: 171,000 Cost: $8,700,000,000

    1979: Morvi Dam Failure. Torrential rain and unprecidented flooding caused the Machchu-2 dam, situated on the Machhu river, to burst. This sent a wall of water through the town of Morvi in the Indian State of Gujarat.
    Human lives lost: 1500 (estimated) Cost: $1,024,000,000

    Next, fossil-fuels.

    1998: Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Jess Oil Pipeline Explosion, A Petroleum pipeline ruptures and explodes, destroying two villages and hundreds of villagers scavenging gasoline. Human lives lost: 1,078 Cost: $54,000,000

    Only by inflating potential deaths can the worst nuclear event (Chernobyl) amount to a fraction of these.


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  2. 2
    Anon Says:

    The 11 trillion figure is probably just made up, much like most of the figures the anti-nuclear movement uses.


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  3. 3
    Wam Says:

    These calculations are based on radiophobia: Antinuclear people believe that any piece of land or building that comes into contact with any small amount of radiation instantly becomes “uninhabitable”. Any amount of water and food become toxic and poisonous if it comes in contact with nuclear materials (latest claims are the whole Pacific ocean will become toxic due to Fukushima). Any human or animal contaminated by tiny amounts of radioactivity is doomed to die horrible deaths, cancer, you name it.

    - IF someone truly believes all this, then $100 trillion should be about right!

    Back in reality…. the Soviets “dumped” several nuclear submarines and reactors into the Arctic ocean, and never had a problem with the practice, the superpowers set off atmospheric and underground nuclear tests for four decades up to 1992. Nobody suggests they made everything around them “uninhabitable” or contaminated whole oceans. In fact, reports from the time suggested that military officials were disappointed of the destruction of hydrogen bombs. At Mayak, Soviet prison labourers handled plutonium and acid with primitive protection and no masks, but researchers later found of 6000 workers, only 100 developed cancers due to radiation poisoning. Many Chernobyl respoders were claimed to have only 1 or 2 years to live due to radiation exposure, they still live today and anti-nuclear groups still wait for them to die.

    The end of radiophobia will come when people are so poor, they have nothing left to lose. Then they will be forced to have courage again, to take risks, and pay a price if they want to prosper. We have become complacent and forgotten the risks that our forebearers took to get us to where we are.


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  4. 4
    Anon Says:

            Wam said:

    Many Chernobyl respoders were claimed to have only 1 or 2 years to live due to radiation exposure, they still live today and anti-nuclear groups still wait for them to die.

    For some reason that reminds me of this.

            Wam said:

    The end of radiophobia will come when people are so poor, they have nothing left to lose. Then they will be forced to have courage again, to take risks, and pay a price if they want to prosper. We have become complacent and forgotten the risks that our forebearers took to get us to where we are.

    Part of me wonders if we’ll need to move most of the population into space (where there regularly is enough radiation to be dangerous and thus where you need to actually know about radiation) to really kill off radiophobia.


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  5. 5
    Alan(UK) Says:

    Aberfan http://www.nuffield.ox.ac.uk/politics/aberfan/desc.htm


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  6. 6
    Anon Says:

    Just to remind everyone that it was coal that caused by the events at Aberfan (and that was a really big screw-up).


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  7. 7
    drbuzz0 Says:

            DV82XL said:

    When accidents happen, the deadliest and costliest source of energy is water – especially when it’s held back by poorly-designed dams. The Chernobyl disaster doesn’t come close to the damage done when a dam at a hydroelectric plant bursts.

    Next, fossil-fuels.

    1998: Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Jess Oil Pipeline Explosion, A Petroleum pipeline ruptures and explodes, destroying two villages and hundreds of villagers scavenging gasoline. Human lives lost: 1,078 Cost: $54,000,000

    Only by inflating potential deaths can the worst nuclear event (Chernobyl) amount to a fraction of these.

    While I agree with you 100%, I always note when I bring this up that despite the fact that hydroelectric has the worst record for catastrophic failures, I am not, as a general rule, opposed to hydroelectric power or dams. As long as the dam is properly constructed and maintained and the possibility of overfill is planned for (adiquate spillways etc) then the risk is acceptably small given the benefit.

    Dams provide about the cheapest electricity of any source and can be used for flood management, improving navigation of waterways, irrigation, providing water to cities etc. Of course they also have ecological concequences that need to be balanced. Whether or not the benefits are worth the costs needs to be carefully assessed on a case-by-case basis. However, in the right circumstances, dams are great and very beneficial.

    Also, I’m not 100% opposed to fossil fuels either. Although I’m damn near 100% opposed to coal and my feeling on fossil fuels is that they need to be moved from a primary energy source to a secondary and nitche energy source, I’m willing to admit that they have a place and we need to continue to use hydrocarbons, although at a reduced total amount.

    Hydrocarbons are definately the way to go for aviation, and nuclear reactors are not economical for small to medium watercraft, for small-scale remote power generation and a number of other applications.

    We can keep the risk low by using fossil fuels to only the extent necessary for applications that don’t have much of a viable alternative.


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  8. 8
    Andrew Jaremko Says:

    drbuzz0 – thanks for the post; great as always. Anon and Alan(uk) – thanks for the links, but it would help us if you gave a clue what the links are about and why we should look. From Anon’s contribution, one of the most surreal things I’ve seen:

    CASSINI LAUNCH SUCCESSFUL, ACTIVISTS TO SUE

    Anti-nuclear activists today announced that they would be filing suit in Federal court, in the wake of the launch “without a hitch” of the Cassini space probe.

    “The announcement of the successful launch is an attempt to discredit our movement, and is therefore libellous”, a spokesman said. “It’s part of a conspiracy designed to conceal the true hazards of nuclear
    radiation.”

    Are we sure this wasn’t the Onion putting us on?

    The Aberfan disaster is grimly surreal. (Emphasis mine. )

    At 9.15 am on Friday, October 21, 1966 a waste tip slid down a mountainside into the mining village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. It first destroyed a farm cottage in its path, killing all the occupants.
    ….
    144 people died in the Aberfan disaster: 116 of them were school children.

    I did a really crude calculation to estimate my personal responsibility due to my use of coal fired electricity. Over my 60 years of life, my pollution has resulted in 0.1 – 0.2 of a death (or that much life shortening around the globe). A friend and I were in a black comedic mood, and he made the analogy – it’s as if a few of us all got together and beat someone to death. Not a pretty picture.

    I’m in Canada, and will go out shortly to take part in our current black comedy – I’ll vote in our election. Nobody has a platform to vote for, so I’ve decided who to vote against. “None of the above”, unfortunately, isn’t a ballot option.


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  9. 9
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    While I agree with you 100%, I always note when I bring this up that despite the fact that hydroelectric has the worst record for catastrophic failures, I am not, as a general rule, opposed to hydroelectric power or dams…

    Also, I’m not 100% opposed to fossil fuels either.

    Well I am not against any energy source per se ether, but in terms of impact from accidents, nuclear energy is rather low on the scale, which is the point about the claims that insuring against a nuclear reactor failure is so high that it renders the technology out of financial practicality because of the amount of potential damage.

    While it is apparent that the public isn’t very good at risk analysis, this is one lie about nuclear energy that is demonstrably false – other types of energy can and do have accidents in which potential costs are beyond the capability of current underwriting to cover. In these cases the cost must be born by taxpayers, like it or not, because we must have access to these sources of energy.


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  10. 10
    seth Says:

    “…Dams provide about the cheapest electricity of any source…”

    Nope

    Site C latest biggest dam project in British Columbia – $20B/Gw, Candu nukes last 7 built on time on budget in 4 years or less $2B/Gw – 10% the cost.

    Clearly nukes are the cheapest form of energy available and with factory module production, costs will drop quickly.

    Nukes can easily be used to make liquid synfuels out of nuke hydrogen. Shell has a first of kind GTL plant that does pretty well the same thing in Qatar out of natural gas, that costs less than $25 a barrel equivalent.


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  11. 11
    Alan(UK) Says:

    Sorry, to those that complained, for being obscure. Think 9/11. The Aberfan disaster was played out on our TV screens just like that little problem with a couple of office blocks in New York.

    The National Coal Board (who ran the mines at the time), like their predecessors, piled the waste from the local coal mines in heaps on the mountainside above the village. No consideration was given to their stability despite there being known springs under them.

    On Friday 21st October 1966 the waterlogged spoil slid down the mountainside engulfing the Junior School in a sea of mud killing over 100 children.


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  12. 12
    Sigivald Says:

    $11T is nearly four times Germany’s GNI.

    Which would make it a staggeringly impressive cost for even the worst possible nuclear power plant disaster.

    (On the issue of nuclear plant insurance, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them worldwide didn’t have “insurance” as such, being run by the State, and thus “insured” by the State’s notional willingness to pay out.

    In any case, in a country like China, I’d consider that “insurance” owned by the State on a State power plant was pretty much a paper fiction in any case, in terms of its reality and independence in the way an insurance policy in the US would be accounted for.

    And of course, we can look at France, and see that EDF, which runs all the nuclear plants there, is … 85% owned by the French government. My impression is that state ownership is the worldwide norm, and the US system is the outlier.)


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  13. 13
    drbuzz0 Says:

            seth said:

    “…Dams provide about the cheapest electricity of any source…”

    Nope

    Site C latest biggest dam project in British Columbia – $20B/Gw, Candu nukes last 7 built on time on budget in 4 years or less $2B/Gw – 10% the cost.

    Clearly nukes are the cheapest form of energy available and with factory module production, costs will drop quickly.

    Nukes can easily be used to make liquid synfuels out of nuke hydrogen. Shell has a first of kind GTL plant that does pretty well the same thing in Qatar out of natural gas, that costs less than $25 a barrel equivalent.

    I agree in many circumstances they are, but you can’t make the comparison based on a single example of large hydroelectric. Hydro electric has the advntage that it needs no fuel and only minimal maintiance. Once a large hydro facility is built and paid off it is basically a cash cow that costs almost nothing to keep up and cranks out electricity effectively forever.

    In general, hydro has excellent economics. This is all the more true when you have to build a dam anyway. Think of the Hoover dam as an example. It was built primarily for irrigation and water distribution, and while electricity was part of the plant, it was almost a bonus to the construction. The dam probably would have been built even if it could not have been used for power generation.

    Of course the absolute best situation you can have is where you can build a hydro power plant without even having to bother with a dam. Think Niagra Falls – nature was nice enough to hand us a big river suddenly falling off a cliff and all that had to be done was to build soem diversion canals (later replaced by diversion tunnels) They actually did later build gates to further improve the power output.

    So yeah, I’m all for hydropower. It’s simply an issue of the world having a limited number of suitable rivers for it and even fewer rivers that are ideal for it.


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  14. 14
    DV82XL Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    It’s simply an issue of the world having a limited number of suitable rivers for it and even fewer rivers that are ideal for it.

    Well that’s the rub, isn’t it? The US and Canada has huge hydro potential in northern flowing rivers in Alaska, and the Territories, but the investment to realize it is going to be staggering. The bottom line is that the low-hanging fruit has been picked in most cases already. Also run-of-the-river projects that yield less than 100MWe while possible, are poor investments due to the long pay back and the hoops that need to be jumped through to get permits from environmental bureaucracies.

    Even existing facilities are marginal these days. We have an old and rather beautiful 50MWe plant with an Art Deco powerhouse on Rivière-des-Prairies on the North Shore of Montreal Island, that once powered the city, operated by Hydro-Québec. It’s being rehabilitated primarily because it now serves as a flood control dam, the power, once the reason the facility was built, is of little consequence.


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  15. 15
    Andrew Jaremko Says:

    Alan(UK) – thanks for the additional info about Aberfan’s impact in the UK. When I read the article I wondered what kind of a tip it was, and why (or how) a town got built downslope from it.


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  16. 16
    MikeC Says:

    Here in New Zealand we have a lot of hydro power – about 57% of our electricity according to wiki, 11% of total energy. Most of it nicely tucked away in places where it won’t kill anyone if the dams fail…but not all of it by any means.

    But it’s not as simple as that.

    We have dry years – times when we have to fire up the old coal & newer gas fired stations to cope with normal demand that het hydro can’t cope with. This means we have to have those plants all ready to go at a momnent’s notice.

    Hydro is also a good match for wind (apparently) – we can minimise hydro when the wind is blowing, and open the gates when it isn’t – this helps make the water go further & means we have capacity to cope with low winds.

    But not both low winds AND low water…yet…..the wind is fairly new so we haven’t had to cope with that combo….but the coal & gas plants remain ready at a moment’s notice – considerable capital cost that usually isn’t being used.

    the Aberfan disaster has a considerable entry on Wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan_disaster


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  17. 17
    Joseph Hertzlinger Says:

    That reminds me… Who insure dams?


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  18. 18
    DV82XL Says:

            Joseph Hertzlinger said:

    That reminds me… Who insure dams?

    http://www.damsafety.org/media/Documents/FEMA/AvailabilityOfDamInsurance.pdf


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  19. 19
    Anon Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    As long as the dam is properly constructed and maintained and the possibility of overfill is planned for (adiquate spillways etc) then the risk is acceptably small given the benefit.

    Dams provide about the cheapest electricity of any source and can be used for flood management, improving navigation of waterways, irrigation, providing water to cities etc.

    Of course they also have ecological concequences that need to be balanced.

    Whether or not the benefits are worth the costs needs to be carefully assessed on a case-by-case basis. However, in the right circumstances, dams are great and very beneficial.

    I’m of the personal opinion that new hydro dams shouldn’t be built unless for flood control and that we should just use nuclear for energy and desalination instead even if it costs a little bit more (because I’d prefer not to have the environmental impact of hydro if it can be avoided).

    Still, if you must build a flood control dam you’d be stupid not to get some fresh water and electricity out of it.

            drbuzz0 said:

    Also, I’m not 100% opposed to fossil fuels either. Although I’m damn near 100% opposed to coal and my feeling on fossil fuels is that they need to be moved from a primary energy source to a secondary and nitche energy source, I’m willing to admit that they have a place and we need to continue to use hydrocarbons, although at a reduced total amount.

    Hydrocarbons are definately the way to go for aviation, and nuclear reactors are not economical for small to medium watercraft, for small-scale remote power generation and a number of other applications.

    We can keep the risk low by using fossil fuels to only the extent necessary for applications that don’t have much of a viable alternative.

    True, though synthetic hydrocarbons would be a better alternative there.

            Andrew Jaremko said:

    Anon and Alan(uk) – thanks for the links, but it would help us if you gave a clue what the links are about and why we should look.

    That’d ruin it though.

            Andrew Jaremko said:

    Are we sure this wasn’t the Onion putting us on?

    It wasn’t them but it was satire (and pretty good satire too).

            Andrew Jaremko said:

    I did a really crude calculation to estimate my personal responsibility due to my use of coal fired electricity. Over my 60 years of life, my pollution has resulted in 0.1 – 0.2 of a death (or that much life shortening around the globe). A friend and I were in a black comedic mood, and he made the analogy – it’s as if a few of us all got together and beat someone to death. Not a pretty picture.

    Of course it’s more like the anti-nuclear movement forced us to beat someone to death, if they hadn’t of opposed nuclear power then that 0.1 to 0.2 deaths wouldn’t have occurred.

            Andrew Jaremko said:

    I’m in Canada, and will go out shortly to take part in our current black comedy – I’ll vote in our election. Nobody has a platform to vote for, so I’ve decided who to vote against. “None of the above”, unfortunately, isn’t a ballot option.

    I almost always vote against.

            seth said:

    Clearly nukes are the cheapest form of energy available and with factory module production, costs will drop quickly.

    Nuclear power can be a lot cheaper than it is but there are circumstances in which hydro can undercut nuclear (especially when you are building the dam for other reasons).

            seth said:

    Nukes can easily be used to make liquid synfuels out of nuke hydrogen.

    You also need to get carbon if you want to make synthetic hydrocarbons.

            Sigivald said:

    (On the issue of nuclear plant insurance, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them worldwide didn’t have “insurance” as such, being run by the State, and thus “insured” by the State’s notional willingness to pay out.

    In any case, in a country like China, I’d consider that “insurance” owned by the State on a State power plant was pretty much a paper fiction in any case, in terms of its reality and independence in the way an insurance policy in the US would be accounted for.

    And of course, we can look at France, and see that EDF, which runs all the nuclear plants there, is … 85% owned by the French government. My impression is that state ownership is the worldwide norm, and the US system is the outlier.)

    On the whole I suspect that socialist energy is more common (though lately the move to privatise government assets would probably swing things a bit more capitalist). How much difference it actually makes is another matter.

    A lot of the US utilities used to be government owned as well.

            MikeC said:

    Hydro is also a good match for wind (apparently) – we can minimise hydro when the wind is blowing, and open the gates when it isn’t – this helps make the water go further & means we have capacity to cope with low winds.

    Of course that only works in droughts, if you’ve got lots of water you’ll have to let some of it go anyway just to keep the dam from overflowing.

    Of course in drought you probably don’t want to be holding up the flow of water too much since the ecosystem downstream needs it.


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  20. 20
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Anon said:

    True, though synthetic hydrocarbons would be a better alternative there.

    Yeah, well that depends on how much you need and the economics. There’s still a pretty descent amount of easily recoverable oil and gas in the ground (not enough to fill our current energy needs easily, but a reasonable amount). If you were to cut down on oil usage from being a foundational energy source to being a nitche energy source (aviation, medium sized watercraft, remote low-power generators, some heavy construction, some use in road vehicles) then it’s possible that the peterolium supplies we have could be stretched to fill some or all of the demand.

    This would probably be cheaper than using synthetics in most cases, or at the very least, it would be cheap enough that it would be the economical solution for areas where oil and gas was pretty easy to recover.

    There’s no point in synthasizing methane if you still have some gas fields that are giving reasonable production.

    Also, hydrocarbons are used for a lot more than energy. Methane especially is a feedstock for all kinds of chemical products.

    But yeah, I’d hope to see synthetics take on a bigger role.

            Anon said:

    I’m of the personal opinion that new hydro dams shouldn’t be built unless for flood control and that we should just use nuclear for energy and desalination instead even if it costs a little bit more (because I’d prefer not to have the environmental impact of hydro if it can be avoided).

    It comes down to ecomomics again. Sure, desalination is the perfect solution ecologicaly because you can get effectively unlimited amounts of water without depleting freshwater reserves, but the cost has to be considered. Even if nuclear energy is super cheap in the future, there are other costs.

    Consider what you’d have to deal with to get water to a land-locked area like most of Nevada, Utah and Arizona. Not only would you need massive desalination capacity but huge canals or aquifirs, stretching hundreds of miles and with massive pump stations and storage resevours. It would be so much cheaper to use any local freshwater supplies even if it required building dams.


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  21. 21
    Anon Says:

            drbuzz0 said:

    There’s still a pretty descent amount of easily recoverable oil and gas in the ground (not enough to fill our current energy needs easily, but a reasonable amount). If you were to cut down on oil usage from being a foundational energy source to being a nitche energy source (aviation, medium sized watercraft, remote low-power generators, some heavy construction, some use in road vehicles) then it’s possible that the peterolium supplies we have could be stretched to fill some or all of the demand.

    This would probably be cheaper than using synthetics in most cases, or at the very least, it would be cheap enough that it would be the economical solution for areas where oil and gas was pretty easy to recover.

    There’s no point in synthasizing methane if you still have some gas fields that are giving reasonable production.

    Of course there’s also global warming to be worried about (although getting rid of most uses of fossil fuels would probably be enough for that problem).

    A lot of course would depend on just how cheaply you can make the synthetics (and I’d expect much stricter environmental standards to be applied to the oil industry when their product serves a niche market).

            drbuzz0 said:

    Also, hydrocarbons are used for a lot more than energy. Methane especially is a feedstock for all kinds of chemical products.

    True, those uses also have the advantage that they don’t necessarily involve COâ‚‚ emissions.

            drbuzz0 said:

    It comes down to ecomomics again. Sure, desalination is the perfect solution ecologicaly because you can get effectively unlimited amounts of water without depleting freshwater reserves, but the cost has to be considered.

    Even if nuclear energy is super cheap in the future, there are other costs.

    Consider what you’d have to deal with to get water to a land-locked area like most of Nevada, Utah and Arizona.

    Not only would you need massive desalination capacity but huge canals or aquifirs, stretching hundreds of miles and with massive pump stations and storage resevours. It would be so much cheaper to use any local freshwater supplies even if it required building dams.

    Probably true, I didn’t consider inland cities but the US certainly has some big ones although hundred kilometre aqueducts aren’t by any means unheard of (and don’t seem all that daunting).


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  22. 22
    Sigivald Says:

    100 km aqueducts?

    The California Aqueduct is 700 miles (1,126km) long, and the Central Arizona Project is about half that length.

    That said, since neither of those are really adapted to getting water from seaside locations, it sure seems a lot easier to just keep using fresh water, and add additional supplies from desalination.

    Greens don’t like a few unhappy fish? They can buck up.


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  23. 23
    Anon Says:

    Why can’t I seem to find solid numbers on how much those aqueducts cost?

    How can we compare a long aqueduct from the coast to a shorter one to an inland dam without it?


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  24. 24
    Anon Says:

            Sigivald said:

    Greens don’t like a few unhappy fish? They can buck up.

    I hope you don’t think the Greens actually care about the fish (which they likely just consider an argument to use against development).


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  25. 25
    Josh Says:

    Good news is that according to a recent poll, Fukushima has not dented public support for nuclear power in the UK.


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  26. 26
    George Carty Says:

            Josh said:

    Good news is that according to a recent poll, Fukushima has not dented public support for nuclear power in the UK.

    But the bad news (at least for Scotland) is that the anti-nuclear SNP has won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.


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  27. 27
    Anon Says:

            George Carty said:

    But the bad news (at least for Scotland) is that the anti-nuclear SNP has won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.

    Which in practice means that Scotland will have to buy electricity from the other countries (unless you like emitting COâ‚‚).

    Though someone probably should tell the SNP that they “canne change the laws of physics”.


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  28. 28
    George Carty Says:

            Anon said:

    Which in practice means that Scotland will have to buy electricity from the other countries (unless you like emitting COâ‚‚).

    Though someone probably should tell the SNP that they “cannae change the laws of physics”.

    I once e-mailed a member of the SNP after viewing his blog, and although I was mainly stating my concern that breaking up the UK could unleash racist nationalism in its constituent countries, I happened to mention my concerns with the SNP’s anti-nuclear policy, using many of the themes common on here and pro-nuclear blogs.

    I suspect the reason why a pro-renewables platform is popular in Scotland is because of:
    a) the large land requirements of wind power are less problematic because Scotland has 32% of the UK’s area but only 8.4% of the population.
    b) the vast majority of the UK’s hydroelectric capacity is in Scotland, and
    c) the idea of offshore wind power is politically very popular in Scotland because of the “green jobs” angle. Aberdeen was a boom town during the heyday of North Sea Oil, and it is hoped that the skills required to build and service offshore wind turbines would be little different from those required to build and service offshore oil rigs.

    Also, I suspect that economic illiteracy is rife in Scotland (as its economy is heavily subsidized by England via the Barnett Formula) — Adam Smith must be turning in his grave…


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  29. 29
    Josh Says:

    Never mind Scotland, it’s Wales that matters. And also places in England, like Hinkley Point, Dungeness, Sizewell, Bradwell etc.


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  30. 30
    Compression fittings Says:

    Just as many conventional thermal power stations generate electricity by harnessing the thermal energy released from burning fossil fuels, nuclear power plants convert the energy released from the nucleus of an atom, typically via nuclear fission.


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  31. 31
    Anon Says:

            Compression fittings said:

    Just as many conventional thermal power stations generate electricity by harnessing the thermal energy released from burning fossil fuels, nuclear power plants convert the energy released from the nucleus of an atom, typically via nuclear fission.

    What exactly was the point of that?

    Oh right, you’re a spammer who just wants to put their URL wherever they can get it regardless of whether it is relevant or they have something worth saying.


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  32. 32
    peter Says:

    I’m sorry. No insurance no business.
    Nuclear is only cheap while running…but building and shutting down costs after only 40-60 years…sorry folks this monster comes undone like a reactor in a wave.


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  33. 33
    Anon Says:

            peter said:

    I’m sorry. No insurance no business.
    Nuclear is only cheap while running…but building and shutting down costs after only 40-60 years…sorry folks this monster comes undone like a reactor in a wave.

    Decommissioning costs which have already been paid by the time the reactor actually turns 40.

    For you see, they actually set aside the money before it is going to be needed, do wind farms keep a fund ready to clean up their mess when they pull it down (and they do pull wind farms down, quite a lot more often than nuclear plants get closed).


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  34. 34
    ChicagoPeter Says:

    Nuclear power plants are massively underinsured. if you calculate damages to property and livelihoods of up to $250 billion for Fukushima and then realize the entire emergency insurance pool for the entire US nuclear industry is only a pittance – $11 billion dollars..I’d say nuclear plants either need to start paying a lot more for their insurance- and the “cheap” electricity argument will float away like a backup generator in a wave. – or on empty when the diesel fuel didn’t arrive.


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  35. 35
    Anon Says:

            ChicagoPeter said:

    Nuclear power plants are massively underinsured.

    Which we’ve already shown to be false.

            ChicagoPeter said:

    if you calculate damages to property and livelihoods of up to $250 billion for Fukushima

    Almost none of which was actually caused by those reactors (earthquakes and tsunamis can do quite a bit of damage all on their own).

    Telling people they can’t live in the area around the power plant certainly will damage livelihoods, but if it is perfectly safe to live in that area (which it is) then it isn’t the powerplant which did the damage, but the idiots who oppose technology.

            ChicagoPeter said:

    and then realize the entire emergency insurance pool for the entire US nuclear industry is only a pittance – $11 billion dollars..I’d say nuclear plants either need to start paying a lot more for their insurance- and the “cheap” electricity argument will float away like a backup generator in a wave. – or on empty when the diesel fuel didn’t arrive.

    Should hydroelectric dams pay more for their insurance as well? They have a record of killing a lot more people and doing a lot more property damage than nuclear power plants.

    What about coal and the Chernobyl a week it causes?

    It’s still a fact that nuclear is the only carbon neutral power source that actually works on the scale we need (we don’t have enough rivers to do hydro and wind and solar are too unreliable).


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