Similar Posts

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

13 Comments

  1. I think this would be a good idea. I’ve kind of been wondering, myself, over the past few months, if there’s some way I could invest in nuclear power plants (even though my personal contribution would be fairly small – maybe a few thousand dollars over the course of a few years).

    I realize I could invest in a company like MidAmerica, Entergy or Exelon which build and operate nuclear plants, but a mutual fund might be more diversified, so I’m betting on the industry, not an individual company which might have bad management and go belly up despite the advantages of nuclear power.

  2. As a young guy, this is the first time I can recall hearing about the Barnwell recycling/reprocessing plant. Rod, do you know whether the MIT Nuclear Fuel Cycle study looked closely (or at all) at the experience of the Barnwell project being partially completed and then abruptly halted?

    Considering the political aspects of reprocessing/recycling and the past moratorium on even speaking of the subject within DOE, I don’t see any way that an accurate assessment of the economics of an advanced fuel cycle could be made.

    When will the debate with Steve Kirsch and all occur?

  3. As a younger guy, I had never heard of the Barnwell facility. Considering all the political back and forth, there is no way an accurate assessment of the economics of recprocessing/recycling/advanced fuel cycles could be made. That uncertainty plays a bit of a role in adding uncertainty to the evaluations of individual nuclear power plant projects. Rod, when will the debate at MIT over their Fuel Cycle report, with Steve Kirsch and others, be happening?

  4. As a younger guy, I had never heard of the Barnwell facility. Considering all the political back and forth of the past, particularly the long-term moratorium within DOE on even speaking of reprocessing, there is no way an accurate assessment of the economics of recprocessing/recycling/advanced fuel cycles could be made. That uncertainty plays a bit of a role in adding uncertainty to the evaluations of individual nuclear power plant projects. On that note Rod, when will the debate at MIT over their Fuel Cycle report, with Steve Kirsch and others, be happening?

  5. As someone who’s still paying for the Shoreham nuclear plant, a badly managed and corrupt operation that never delivered a watt of electricity to a single rate-payer, I am heartily in favor of some sensible alternative for funding new nuclear plants.

  6. Rod, this is a good article if only because it raises or tries to deal with questions not always adequately answered by the pro-nuclear community.

    I think the general paradigm of turning consumers into investors (either voluntarily or mandating it) has a lot going for it.

    In some ways I deal with this question on a blog item I wrote on the DK a year or so ago called “Financing Nuclear Energy”.

    I start with a different perspective. My historical perspective tells me that every significant civil engineering project (not ‘a reactor’ for example, but building a nuclear genration industry) is not hindered necessarily by gov’t regulation or monopolies, per se, but by the lack of a serious, *governmental* plan that is the root of all great engineering projects, from nuclear energy originally to the rail roads to the highway system to every water way built anywhere in the world for purposes of commerce to every dam project I know of.

    It is not ‘gov’t regulation’ but what kind of regulation. That that end we have to decide as a society if we are going to employ the atom to solve our energy needs. This means convincing the communities at large that nuclear is better, in fact the only way to survive as a species, the only way to develop the underdeveloped word etc.

    Every one of these endeavors uses, often, private companies a sub-contractors for components and labor. But in all these instances, the overriding planning wasn’t done by private industry, it was done by gov’t. If flies in the face of libertarian “mythology” but it’s historically accurate. The role of the gov’t, or “The State” is paramount. And this, after all, is paramount.

    The second problem with telling the gov’t to stand out of the way is that private investment, as a historical trend in capitalist societies everywhere, is toward speculation, not “capital” investments (the production of things in factories, and services that service those industries). That is because capital *always* flows to an ever greater return on profit in the shortest amount of time. The current financial crisis, born out of *deregulation* of the financial community, was caused by getting rid the banking laws passed starting with Glass-Stegal on up.

    Nuclear energy based on a truly free market is not as profitable as investing in real-estate or oil futures or derivatives and other papers. It just ain’t and ain’t gonna be, neither.

    This is why I propose in my blog linked to above to establish a truly credit-based National Nuclear Development Bank whose only mandate is to finance the deployment of nuclear energy without having to have consumers pay the cost of a project you so correctly pointed out the natural utility monopolies may not be so interested in completing.

    Such a NNDB would have some form of negotiated *equity* holding in any nuclear facility that generates revenue and thus would eventually become self-financing, and exponentially so. It could offer almost zero interest loans (in reality 1 to 2%) plus some from of specific revenue return based on out put of each facility. Both loan and equity not occurring until the unit goes COD (commercial ontime delivery).

    No private banks, just gov’t credit. But it would take the *political* commitment to pull this off.

    Just my contribution to this discussion.

    David

  7. Something funky was going on with the site earlier. Apparently my attempts at leaving comments took quite a while to show up on here.

    1. Yes – there have been some backend database issues. I think they have largely been resolved.

      Interestingly enough, the first response from my hosting company was a recommendation to move commenting to Discus. That is NOT my plan.

  8. If you look into the reason that all of the nuclear power plants caused an increase in rates I believe that you will find that the common driver is delays caused by interveners. Each plant that I worked at while working in the Construction/Startup area took more than double the time to construct and license due to these delays. Since, these utilities were not able to pay down the debt, the debt grew and more than doubled, some even quadrupled! The Utilities had to borrow money to make payments on their loans. That is similar to you using the highest interest rate credit card to pay your mortgage, then paying that cards minimum payment on that card with the next highest rate card, ad infinitum. That is how you neighborhood Public Utility Commission protects you. Keep in mind, any good business person will tell you that if you owe money, the true interest rate you pay is the rate of most expensive line of credit you have payments on. The More a utility owes, the higher these lines of credit, and the more that new plant costs. They have been building coal plants for years. They know, within weeks, when it will be done, including all interventions. In most cases, they complete months ahead of “schedule” saving millions on interest payments. Nuclear power plants blew all of those schedules to hell, and the interveners learned faster than the utilities how to delay even more. Why not – they were getting all of their bills paid by the utilities!

    Expect more of the same for all future Nuclear plants as none of these root causes have been fixed.

    1. Regulatory ratcheting, and interveners are a huge cause for delay. AECL completed several new builds and referbs for offshore customers in the last twenty years on budget and on (or before) time. Yet this same company constantly runs into delays and cost overruns on domestic projects, mostly due to interference of this sort.

      However having said that the greatest challenge to the growth of nuclear energy for North America in the coming decades is the growing glut of methane. Until the CO2 emissions from this product are costed in, new nuclear builds are not going to be economically viable except in a few isolated cases.

Comments are closed.