Thursday, June 01, 2006

What kind of nuclear?

Between Canada, the UK, and the United States, a number of countries are now considering building new nuclear. Regulars know I'm not keen on nuclear, but if it's going to happen, what shape should nuclear take?

Well, the best path is probably to have a single corporation control all the nuclear assets and activities - reactors, fuel and waste management, insurance and decomissioning. Either have it publicly-owned, or make it privately owned but heavily regulated.

All of these are important to keep externalities from being dumped on taxpayers. I'll admit that there's an ulterior motive here: I believe that a nuclear industry that was forced to insure its own reactors and pay for its own decomissioning and waste disposal costs would be simply uncompetitive.

The market, as it exists today, is prepared to build nuclear only with massive government subsidy. If people are given the true price information on nuclear, I don't think it will look nearly as rosy.


berlynn said...

No nukes is good nukes. Chernobyl taught us that. See Joanna Macy's site and scroll down a smidge to The Story of the Elm Dance and take the link. It's a haunting, terribly sad, yet beautiful story.

wonderdog said...

Nah, waste disposal is easy. Just spread it around really thin. We'll barely notice the mutations.

I'm reminded of a news item I saw on problems confronting attempts to build a long-term storage facility for waste. How do you create warning signs sufficently universal in meaning that, after our civilization is dead and gone, future archeologists don't unwittingly dig up our mess and kill themselves?

Ronald Brak said...

Very roughly, and it's hard to tell because of all the misinformation (lies) that gets spread around, it seems that nuclear power is about one quater more expensive than coal. The exact cost depends on how far the coal has to be transported and its quality. Wind power appears to be slightly cheaper than nuclear. However once you get 20% of your electricity from wind, nuclear will probably become cheaper due to issues with wind's variability. (Although this could change in the future.) This suggests that to slow climate change we should expand both wind and nuclear power sources right now. Of course, we should expand wind first because it's the cheapest.

Although care does need to be taken, I think the dangers of nuclear waste seem quite minimal compared to rapid climate change.