For an industry so heavily subsidised and bailed out by governments and taxpayers, you really have to wonder about its business model. The model is probably based on a greedy and spoiled child who always has its chubby hands out, demanding more allowance, and who always gets it from its over-indulgent parents. Think of an even more toxic version of Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The latest whining brat to have its allowance increased is Yucca Mountain, the US’s first nuclear waste dump, being built in Nevada. Already 20 (yes, 20) years behind schedule, it was announced this week that the project’s costs have rocketed to $90 billion, up $32 billion on the previous 2001 estimate of $58 billion.
(To put this into perspective, take a look at the wind power generation programme in China’s Bayan Nur region. The Chinese government has given the go ahead for 2,100MW of generation in the region. This is 500MW more than the 1600MW produced by a EPR nuclear reactor. And, of course, with wind power you don’t have to hollow out mountains to hide waste.)
Exactly what Yucca Mountain’s managers have found to spend all that money on has yet to be revealed (precise costings aren’t due to be released for several weeks). As pointed out by Las Vegas congresswoman Shelley Berkley who opposes the project, however, at least one idea for the money is to build a fleet of robots to send into the mountain in a hundred years to maintain the facility. We’re really not making this up.
Imagine the scene as a group of cigar-puffing industry figures sit around a conference table:
Industry figure 1: We’ve got all this money. We’ve got to spend it on something. What to spend it on? Improved safety? Speeding up construction?
Industry figure 2: Have we budgeted for robots? I like robots. I want robots!
It turns out these people are like children after all. If you had a friend who told you he was planning to send robots into the future in order to do his job for him, you’d tell him to lay off the crappy sci-fi movies for a while and to probably seek professional help. In the nuclear industry, however, this is apparently all perfectly acceptable and normal.
As with all dreadful over-budget blockbusters, someone should tell them that amazing special effects won’t save you if you’ve lost the plot. Not even Will Smith could save this one.