Thursday, 13 December 2012

Nuclear industry fudges figures.......

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”

In the S-P, Nov. 30 Business section, Mr. Gitzel, CEO of Cameco Corp presents a report of the nuclear industry that is very much at odds with the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2012 and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). While he is well paid to sell the industry, being factual is unnecessary.

The authors of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report are not particularly friendly to the nuclear industry but neither are they a bunch of rabid anti-nuclear environmentalists - they simply “tell it like it is”. The IAEA promotes and licenses the nuclear industry world wide.

Mr. Gitzel says that there will be 80 new nuclear reactors on line in 2021. To make that a reality, there would need to be a lot more ground-breaking today. Of the 59 currently listed as being under construction, 9 have been on the list for over 20 years, 4 for 10 ten years and, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, 43 are not yet close to an official start-up date.

Some of Mr. Gitzel's figures are wishful thinking. He says that there are four new plants being built in the US; in fact, there are no new plants being built South of the border. In addition to US cancellation, Brazil, France, and India have cancelled their new builds and the Netherlands may follow suit. Mr. Gitzel and China may want to have 26 under construction but not a single construction site has yet been opened. Constructions in Bulgaria and Japan have been abandoned and the Finnish Okiiluoto 3 site is so delayed and so far over budget that it is in jeopardy.

The nuclear industry has been its own worst enemy. An industry born in the secrecy of the Manhattan project for the nuclear bomb in the 1940's, it has continued to operate largely behind closed doors. Power plant construction has been highly government subsidized, consistently subjected to lengthy technical delays and always massively over budget. Adding to this litany of faults is the failure of the industry to convince any insurance agency to cover its liabilities in the case of an accident.

When things go wrong - as they did at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima - they go really wrong. The toll to human lives and the environment is astronomical, clean-up impossible and financial costs beyond belief. The radiation that boils the water that creates the power is messy. It gradually destroys pipes, containment vessels and finally “clogs” up the fuel itself. Seventy years of wishing (and trying) has not “harnessed” the atom - it has not even come close. It cannot even be contained.  Furthermore, nuclear power is like building an outhouse without putting a hole under it - there is no place for the waste to go!

Each previous accident resulted from entirely different sequences of human and technical failures; accidents will continue to occur, especially as older plants are being refurbished. Costs are high, builds and repairs, refurbishment and refuelling cannot be completed within - or even close to - estimated times and accidents are devastating. What's to like about nuclear power?

Is it green? (S-P, Dec. 7, 2012) Those promoting nuclear as a rescue to global warming get mixed up about the proportion of the world's energy that is actually provided by nuclear power.  The fact is that nuclear powe represents less than 3% of the world's total energy use. Increasing its share of electricity production would not make a dent in preventing climate warming.

(Nuclear power accounts for only 11% of the world's total electrical production, down from its peak in 1995 of 17%. At the current rate of new builds vs old power plants reaching their end dates, the IAEA estimates a 2040 share of 6.7%.)

Factor in mining, transportation, carbon-costs of construction, security, waste management and decommissioning, all at the greatest cost of any source, nuclear power is only “green” at best when it is up and running at 90% or better - a figure rarely reached by most reactors.

Cost to our pocket books and to the environment is incredibly important. At a time when Saskatoon city council is trading off improved bicycle paths for fixing potholes in streets, doesn't it make sense to invest in conservation and sustainable energy sources?