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  • The Cost of Not Allowing Nuclear

    The Heritage Foundation is no big fan of central planning or government subsidies. So while we commend John McCain for recognizing that nuclear energy ought to have a role in U.S. energy policy, we do not believe the federal government should be setting arbitrary targets like 45 or 100 nuclear power plants in X number of years. Instead the government should focus on providing the adequate oversight and sound regulatory environment for the private nuclear market to flourish.

    That said, the numbers that McCain did throw out, are a good reason to revisit many of the cost-benefit analyses that government agencies produced for the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill. If it works perfectly as designed, the Lieberman-Warner carbon cap approach is nothing more than a tax on producing carbon. Any carbon tax will raise the price Americans pay for energy since so much of America’s energy comes form carbon intensify sources like coal and gasoline. Just as higher energy prices are harming the economy today, a carbon tax would also harm the U.S. economy. However, the more non-carbon sources that America brings online, the less pain consumers will feel at the pump and in their power bills.

    Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Energy Information Administration (EIA) produced studies estimating the economic harm that Lieberman-Warner would cause. Both EPA and EIA also assumed that, despite the fact that the U.S. has not built a power plant in two decades, many new power plants would come online within the next decades. How many? In order for the EPA to estimate that Lieberman-Warner would only raise U.S. energy prices by 44%, they assumed the U.S. would build 50 new nuclear power plants in the next 25 years. In order for the EIA to estimate that Lieberman-Warner would only raise electricity prices by 64% by 2030, they assumed the U.S would build almost 200 nuclear power plants by 2035.

    Whether Barack Obama or McCain win in November, we are bound to see another carbon capping bill like Lieberman-Warner in Congress. The next time around, lawmakers should demand that government agencies provide at least two sets of cost-benefit estimates: one in which the nuclear industry is allowed to build again, and one in which it isn’t. Then we’ll be able to get a much more accurate picture of how much harm carbon capping will really cause.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to The Cost of Not Allowing Nuclear

    1. Gary Callahan says:

      Having been in the nuclear business for several years some time ago, we must remember that the US is the ONLY nuclear country that does not recycle its waste. That adds significantly to the operating costs of the plant. Additionally once the waste has been recycled to its last useful stage, it can be encased in a boron silcate glass that makes it totally inert. Boron is what is called a nuclear poison meaning that it instantly kills a nuclear reaction. As a matter of fact, one way to scram a reactor is to dump in some sodium pentaborate. Once the situation is back under control means are built into the reactor's design is to remove the sodium pentaborate and safely restart the reactor.

      The boron silicate glass mixtures of waste are about the size of marbles and a 55 gallon drum can contain literally years of waste that is totally inert.

      Finally, administrative and bureaucratic processes must be streamlined, not eliminated, but streamlined so that the construction process is shortened thereby saving costs. If one were to compare the cost per acre of wind, solar and nuclear one would have to come to the conclusion that nuclear is the most attractive option. No one wants to discuss the environmental impacts of wind or solar. Solar causes huge increases in the air temperature without assessing the impact to the surrounding area. Similarly, wind turbines are beginning to be criticized for the killing of native bird species, some of them endangered.

      Finally, yes, the concrete grey color of reactors and adjacent structures aren't the most attractive. But what if they were painted. For example, how about some cultural murals or camouflage or even painted to blend in with the surrounding countryside. What an idea.

    2. Joseph Clair says:

      Some interesting reading on the topic can be found in May, 2008's Scientific American in an article by Frank N. von Hippel.

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