Doomed Nuclear ‘Renaissance’

Fukushima Nuclear Reactor
The first explosion at Japan's Fukushima nuclear complex.

They call it the ‘nuclear renaissance’.

All over the globe, nations and power companies, often global consortiums, are scrambling to build more and more nuclear power stations.

The world’s stock of 443 nuclear reactors is planned to more than double in the next 15 years.

In China, India, Korea, and Japan, more than 250 new reactors are proposed for the next 30 years. 40 are currently under construction and another 86 planned and scheduled.

And the costs are massive – and escalating fast. Costs of a 1,100 MW unit are now between $6 billion and $9 billion – triple the cost 10 years ago.

The newest plant in Finland was first set to cost €3.3 billion. Overruns are now €2.7 billion.

The United Arab Emirates plans to spend $20 billion for 4 more reactors.

The nuclear program in Japan plans $20 billion a year for the next 20 years.

The potential market for ‘nuclear parks’ in India is $150 billion.

Just the loan guarantee programme for the nuclear industry in America is set at €38 billion – twice the country’s total investment in renewable energy.

And at the end of the line, the cost of decommissioning old nuclear plants in the UK alone is estimated to be at least £73 billion.

And these are just the ‘units’.

Waste storage is a further cost. This has taken a major set-back when Obama cancelled the US Yucca Mountain project in Nevada after spending more than $13 billion of the $96 billion estimated cost.

The expense far exceeded the benefit – and it was discovered that the Yucca Mountain project was on a fault line.

Not only must the spent nuclear fuel (the rods in the core) be stored. Depleted uranium is left over from preparing uranium for use as a fuel. The armaments industry uses some on ammunition and rockets, but the vast majority goes into reprocessing plants like Japan’s Rokkasho facility, where on 11 March, 2011 the earthquake cut power for the cooling units as well.

Despite the risks, 113 reactors are planned along the Asian Rim earthquake fault that just shifted. Another 104 reactors are built on fault lines in the USA. Turkey, one of the most seismically active nations, plans a major nuclear power programme.

Iran’s nuclear plant at Bushehr is also at a seismically unstable location and any nuclear leak there would quickly reach the wealthy emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi because the gulf’s currents run clockwise. Radioactivity there, however, was caused when plant unloaded nuclear fuel in February 2010 after a computer worm infected the reactor.

The US Union of Concerned Scientists released a study this month evaluating the US Atomic Energy Commission’s performance last year as a regulator, saying it has repeatedly found its enforcement of safety rules was ‘not timely, consistent, or effective’. The union cited 14 ‘near misses’ at US plants last year.

At Fukushima, ‘re-criticality’ – a nuclear fission chain reaction – could not be ruled out.

Undermined by the ‘environmental’ Monbiots and Lovelocks, no green protests are going to stop this ‘renaissance’. At best, they will slow development in the educated and articulate ‘developed’ countries.

But it will all end. It will destroy itself, not through disasters, man-made or natural. It will simply consume the remaining economically viable supply of uranium, using up scare fossil fuels in the process and creating its own environmental wastelands.

Just like fossil fuels.

Forecast suggests that within 60 years, the energy to mine, mill, enrich and fabricate one metric ton of uranium will be the same as the energy it can make.

For renaissance, read false dawn.