Sunday, September 18, 2011

Some bits and pieces of antinuclear economics


Antinuclear awareness increases as we get a fright: the latest in France! After Fukushima catastrophe, the French authorities maintained that this could not happen in French nuclear plants because they are safer, but now the debate is open again. And, as always, whenever there is a nuclear accident, more supporters of antinuclear power appear. 
This debate is always based on the danger posed by nuclear plants and nuclear residues, which are dangerous for thousands of years. However, those who advocate in favour of nuclear energy use economic arguments: nuclear energy is reported to be cheaper, to create many job posts and, unlike oil, there is no dependency on other countries. Therefore, the debate seems to be focused on what should prevail: environmental and safety arguments (and thus, nuclear plants should be shut down) or economic arguments (and thus, promoting atomic energy). 
However, this debate is nonsense, because all these economic arguments are false, as nuclear energy cannot be defended from any point of view. Let’s take a look at all these economic arguments to check whether they are true or false.

1.- First, we have been told that nuclear energy is the cheapest available energy at present, so in times of crises we cannot afford getting rid of it. The figures reported by nuclear lobbies truly prove that nuclear plants generate energy at really low costs, but they do not take into account the whole process. They calculate the cost of energy without taking into account the cost of building a plant, maintaining the premises and managing residues. In this sense, the MIT report of 2003 revealed the investment cost, the building time and the useful life of a nuclear plant, concluding that nuclear energy cannot be competitive because it is far too expensive. And this study does not include the costs of residue management –nuclear residues should be stored in a safe place for thousands of years until they are no longer dangerous. According to ENRESA (the public company in charge of the safe management, storage and disposal of radioactive wastes produced in Spain), residue management will amount to more than 13 thousand million euros only until 2070 in Spain. Therefore, nuclear energy is not as cheap as allegedly reported. 

2.- Secondly, it is reported that nuclear plants generate job posts. This is irrefutable, but the question should be if nuclear energy generates more job posts that any other energy model. According to a report of 2008 by the Spanish trade union CCOO, renewable energies generated 89,000 direct job posts and 99,000 indirect job posts in 2007 in Spain, whereas nuclear energy did not get up to 10% of these figures. 

3.- And thirdly, nuclear power is alleged to allow energy independence because countries do not need to import oil, gas or coal, as nuclear energy can be produced in situ. However, this is not the case of Spain (and many more countries), at least since the year 2000, when the mine in Saelices el Chico (Salamanca) shut down, being the last uranium mine in the country. At present, Spain imports 100% of the necessary uranium from such countries as Niger, which makes us dependent of international countries in the same way as with oil. Sure, but at least Nigerien people can be energetically independent, can’t they? Well, not exactly, because building nuclear plants (unlike most renewable energies) requires high technologies only available in developed countries. Moreover, the high costs of maintaining nuclear plants cannot be afforded by Third World countries. In short, in a nuclear world, poor countries should buy energy from rich countries. 

Do you need more arguments? How many nuclear accidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima do we need to be convinced that nuclear plants should be shut down? Our future prospects are clean, renewable energies, accessible to everybody.

For further information, read this Greenpeace report about the lies of nuclear industry. 

Sources:
  1. Sarkozy defends nuclear power after Fukushima catastrophe: http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14913133,00.html
  2. Massachussetts Institute of Technology: http://web.mit.edu/
  3. List of the most significant nuclear accidents:
  4. Greenpeace report The economics of nuclear power:

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