Jeremy Clarkson is a columnist whose scathingly witty commentary often appears on the TimesOnline.co.uk web site. Part of his attraction is his frequent failure to pull any punches. On Sunday, January 13, 2007, he published a column titled This has been my perfect week. It is a diatribe against those people who seem to fight all new energy sources that actually produce reliable power while lining up behind the concept of wind, solar, tidal, wave, and ocean thermal energy as long as the facilities are not in their own backyard.
Here is a sample
But no. It turns out the eco-mentalists don’t like nuclear power either for lots of reasons, all of them stupid. They worry about what would happen if a reactor blew up. Which is a bit like worrying about living in a house in case a giant meteorite lands on it. They claim that people who go within five miles of a reactor die of leukaemia instantly. (They don’t.) They wonder where the plants will be built. (Wales?) And they ask what we will do with the waste. Simple. Put it in the Rainbow Warrior.
The fact of the matter is this. The decision to go nuclear has exposed the whole environmental cause for what it is: not a well intentioned drive for clean power but a spiteful, mean-spirited drive for less power. Because less power hits richer countries and richer people the hardest.
The column is worth reading and has generated at least 75 comments from people who are either mad at his characterizations or cheering him on. I did not keep track of the balance between the two, but it might be a fun exercise if you have nothing better to do.
As you might suspect if you are a frequent Atomic Insights reader, I could not resist adding a note suggesting a bit deeper thought might be in order regarding the motivation of the people who reflexively fight major new energy sources that actually meet people’s need for power at the flip of a switch. No one should forget that there is a lot of money that changes hands in order to make that piece of magic possible.
When the fuel burned to produce the power is natural gas, more than 90% of the money goes onto the income statement of the fuel producers and pipeline owners. In Europe, one of the biggest of those is GAZPROM, which is an arm of the Russian government. Only a small piece goes to the equipment manufacturers, but even a small piece of a very large pie is worth fighting over.
When the fuel is coal, 60% or so is the total cost of fuel to the power plant, but of that cost, often half of it goes to the transportation company (mostly rail and ship operators) that moved the fuel to the power plant. Another chunk goes to the owner of the mine, some to the mine management with a small slice left over for the hard working miners. In those coal plants, about 40% of the overall cost goes to the equipment makers, those who produce the piping, the turbines, valves, tanks, heat exchangers, etc. For new coal plant or those whose emissions have been regulated, you can add in chemical companies, compressor manufacturers, filter makers, researchers, engineers, government regulators and emissions market makers.
Bottom line – the whole money flow is different when the source of the electricity is atomic fission. Sure, there are still lots of interests involved and some of them overlap the above list, but never forget that the choices made about the source of power redirect that money flow. NONE of the active participants in the discussion are there without having a financial interest in the outcome. Dig hard and follow the money before deciding who you believe and who is in the best position to make good, long term choices for how an entire nation should provide the power that its people NEED and the extra power that makes life a bit more enjoyable and less burdensome.
Disclosure – I am the founder of Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. and have a strong financial interest in encouraging people to learn enough about nuclear power to decide that it is a good thing. I also have an interest in ensuring that the competition does not learn enough about the power source to figure out just how good it is and how uneven the playing field would be if we are allowed to compete. Unfortunately, I believe that the strongest competitors figured that fact out a long time ago.