On the subject of the law’s of thermodynamics, (beat poet Allen) Ginsberg’s Theorem posits the following rules:
1. You can't win.
2. You can't break even.
3. You can't even quit the game.
Reading the news from the nuclear industry day after day, you have to wonder if those rules don’t apply to the production of electricity using uranium. When American citizens listen to the likes of this from presidential candidates, they must wonder if they can win, break even or quit the nuclear game:
When you’re up against such intransigence, disinformation and propaganda from the man who could be president in a few months, you can see just how the rules of the game have been rigged. McCain’s rules need careful examination because he claims, in contradiction to Ginsberg’s Theorem, that we can all win the game…
Where are McCain’s 700,000 jobs coming from? Who’s going to train those workers? Forty-five new nuclear reactors by 2030? What kind of financial liabilities is the US taxpayer going to have to carry? Where’s the waste going to go? The commercial reactors the US already has will have produced enough waste by 2014 to exceed the capacity of the Yucca Mountain storage facility in Nevada. McCain had better start hollowing out another mountain and fast. Yucca Mountain is 20 years behind schedule which means on that precedent, McCain would have to start digging today to meet the disposal needs of 45 reactors coming online in 2030.
But 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030 would cost around $315 billion, or more if we take into account the most recent figures for how much a reactor costs (7 billion USD is the latest official quote for one EPR). Many billions would flow from the state budget (Congress last December authorized $18.5 billion in guarantees that cover as much as 80 percent of nuclear plant construction costs, and McCain wants to multiple this loan guarantee scheme in future).
Yet, when it comes to climate change mitigation, those 45 reactors – even if we consider all to be the world’s biggest EPR units - would only generate 450 TWh, which is just ten percent of today’s US electricity demand and four percent of its total energy consumption.
Spending the same 300 billion on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources would save several times more carbon emissions than spending them on new reactors – and that would come without generating deadly radioactive waste, contamination all along the fuel chain, as well as hazards related to reactor operation and proliferation.
Click on this graph from Amory Lovins' report, The Nuclear Illusion:
McCain mentions ‘wind, tide, solar, natural gas, flex-fuel cars and all that’ almost in passing. He certainly found more time to expound on the so-called benefits of nuclear than those of renewables. Did he come up with these numbers by himself or did a lobbyist from the nuclear industry whisper them in his ear? Have his people crunched the numbers, we wonder? Has he calculated the opportunity cost of pouring billions of dollars into nuclear that could be diverted into renewables?
Nuclear reactors don’t break even. We must quit the nuclear game whatever McCain’s rules say. Nuclear energy is game where we all lose.