Christopher Meisenzahl at the Amateur Economist and Curmudeon blog had an interesting post about the need for more nuclear power on his blog. I provided the following comment, which I am repeating here so that I can ensure that the words get recorded for posterity. Besides, I need to do a post and put all of my available writing time into this comment.
I agree with the idea that we need more nuclear power plants and also agree that part of the reason for a thirty year hiatus in plant construction was organized opposition.
It is interesting, however, to really explore some of the possible means, motives, and money behind that opposition. The readers of the Amateur Economist might have more fun than most people thinking about this concept.
Though many people point to “environmentalists” or “eco-nuts” (in your words), think about who really benefits when an economically competitive alternative energy supply option is forced out of the market.
That’s right, the existing suppliers of other energy fuels. As many point out, the cost of oil and natural gas would be a lot lower if had more nuclear power plants, and the US would be less dependent on foreign (or domestic for that matter) oil.
Gee, do you think that the guys that make a living selling oil, coal, and gas cannot do the math and figure out that nuclear fission reactors take away a huge chunk of their revenue and political clout?
When I have spoken to casual market participants about this concept, they ask why the oil and gas companies would not simply take over nuclear fission?
The answer is a bit complicated, but can be understood if you understand that oil, coal and gas are all about finding, extracting, moving and processing huge masses of substances that burn.
Fission energy uses tiny quantities of a different material that reacts in a process that takes some education to understand and use safely. Equipment designed for the fossil industry is generally useless in the nuclear industry, and the skill set of the people is also quite incompatible.
To a large extent, nuclear fission power is more about human intellect than about control of key patches of land. You cannot force people to do well in the nuclear business, but you can impose dictatorial rule on areas that are rich in fossil fuel resources.
It is an interesting, fun and extremely important intellectual exercise to understand just where the opposition to nuclear energy comes from and why is has – so far – been fairly successful despite all of the technical advantages. It is hard to fight an enemy if you do not understand who it is, you can end up aiming your fire at a distraction.
Rod Adams – Atomic Insights Blog atomicinsights.com
Thanks to Eric McErlain at NEI Nuclear Notes for pointing to Christopher’s post.