Rüdiger Falksohn, a writer for Spiegel Online, published a story titled A Nuclear Power Renaissance on January 16, 2007. Though the story accurately tells of numerous plans on the drawing boards and projects already in progress, Mr. Falksohn cannot resist some rather slanted jibes indicating his skepticism about the future of the industry and its chances for making much of a difference in the world energy markets.
Here are a few examples of the commentary that is embedded in the news story:
The international atomic energy lobby loves such talk. Almost 21 years after the Chernobyl disaster, and just a couple months after the most recent breakdown at Sweden’s Forsmark reactor last July, the risks associated with nuclear power are largely fading into the background.
Later in the story:
The main obstacle to the construction of nuclear power plants is no longer the anti-nuclear power lobby, but the huge costs of building them. Whereas in 1970 a brand new reactor cost $400 million, a plant now runs as much as 10 times higher. In the last three decades the nuclear power industry has received subsidies of about $1 billion — the electricity generated may be clean from a global warming point of view, but it’s not cheap.
Of course, no mention is made about the value of the electricity produced by the world’s nuclear plants, the fact that US nuclear plants pay an average of about $780 million dollars per year just in fuel disposal fees, or that the subsidies for biofuels in the US amount to several billion dollars per year.
(In the US, the cheapest electricity is from hydroelectric dams, the next cheapest is from established nuclear plants – fully 10-20% cheaper than old fashioned “dirty” coal plants. If the industry marketers insist that their new plants will be called “clean” coal, then I think that the old ones should be called “dirty” coal.)
The need for advertising seems unavoidable, since even the most enthusiastic supporters of the new atomic era cannot deny that it brings with it the same old risks. No one can rule out a meltdown. And no one can guarantee that civilian nuclear research won’t be misused. Furthermore, no one knows who is going to pay for all the new facilities.
Of course, we all know who is going to eventually pay for the facilities that are properly constructed and operated – their cost will be paid in the same way that all other factory capital costs are paid, by selling a profitable product and paying back the investment over time.
Today’s currently operating nuclear plants are well recognized to be cash cows. The firms or countries that own them are very happy that thinkers with a long term vision invested the time, labor and money to get them up and running and to keep them operating despite all obstacles – including the commentary of snide journalists – thrown at them.