When it comes to keeping promises, the nuclear industry and its supporters are very good at talking the talk but very bad at walking the walk.
The industry’s excited talk about a nuclear “renaissance” where a thousand new nuclear reactors would bloom and save the planet from catastrophic climate change turned out to be a dangerous fantasy. The time, money and resources wasted fantasising over new nuclear reactors have left a lost decade where energy efficiency and renewables could have made real and planet-saving progress on reducing emissions but have been shamefully neglected.
This is why the communiqué released by 12 EU nations affirming their support for nuclear power is dangerously deluded.
Showing a tasteful grasp for the timing of their propaganda– the day after the 2nd anniversary of the Fukushima disaster – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the UK –“affirmed their commitment to collaborate in the context of the role that they believe that nuclear energy can play a part in the EU’s future low carbon energy mix”
Or, in straight-talk, these nations wish to continue to prop up the nuclear boondoggle – expensive, unsafe, dirty and unable to make any significant contribution to fighting climate change – even while the chances of humanity limiting the global temperature increase to an average of two degrees Celsius are looking increasingly and terrifyingly unlikely.
The thing is, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time as an observer of the nuclear industry and its boosters, it’s this: nuclear talk is cheap while nuclear power is expensive and getting more so by the day.
The nuclear “renaissance” in Europe – which has been heralded for at least five years – has yielded just two partially built nuclear reactors at Olkiluoto in Finland and Flamanville in France. Both reactors, of the same European Pressurised Reactor design, are years behind schedule and billions of Euros over budget.
Which is certainly why the signatories to this week’s communiqué have said:
The Member States wishing to construct new nuclear power stations signalled that an investment environment must be created taking account of the long term nature of nuclear infrastructure projects in the EU.
“An investment environment” is spin for fixing the game in the nuclear industry’s favour. It’s a fancy way of saying that governments must guarantee the profits of the nuclear companies for decades as well as shielding them from any liability should their reactors cause an accident. It’s propaganda that says the public must pay while the nuclear companies profit.
The evidence for this is everywhere.
Look at EdF, which wants to build new nuclear reactors in the UK. It wants a guaranteed price for the electricity generated – rumoured to be at 95-99 pounds per MWh, which is twice the market price and more than the current price of wind power. The people of the UK will be locked into paying this price for decades.
Look at Japan where General Electric, Hitachi and Toshiba designed, built and serviced the reactors involved in the Fukushima nuclear disaster, yet have not paid one cent of the cost for the reactor failures, currently estimated at somewhere around $250 billion US.
Look at India where the likes of General Electric have said they don’t want to do nuclear business in the country if they are made liable for any accident their reactors might cause. How dare the Indian people try to hold these people to account!
And all this after 60 years of the nuclear age and levels of government support and multi-billions in subsidies and bail-outs that the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries can only dream of. It borders on the pathetic.
After such waste and incompetence, and instead of lauding nuclear power, these 12 EU nations should be laughing the nuclear industry out of town. If would be hilarious if it wasn’t for the damage these nuclear fantasies have caused and are causing.