Commission on Energy Clings to Tired Nuclear Myth
A Statement by Michael Mariotte, Executive Director
"In a disappointing relapse into 20th century thinking and conventional compromise, the self-described National Commission on Energy has delivered recommendations that impede its stated goal to slow and ultimately reverse climate change. Given the Commission's industry-loaded leadership, including John Rowe, chief executive of Exelon Corporation, the world's largest private nuclear power utility, its conclusions on nuclear issues should surprise no one.
"The Commission's report, Ending the Energy Stalemate, squanders a golden opportunity to tackle the urgent crisis of climate change, recognized by the Commission as an over-riding driver behind the two-year study. Rather than break a stalemate, the something-for-everyone package approach in the Commission's report would continue lackluster and ineffective energy policies indefinitely. And by accepting the tired myth that nuclear power is 'carbon-free,' the Commission trades the chance to mitigate global climate change, instead making climate change inevitable. This is because the enormous capital costs of building any significant number of new reactors would divert limited resources from those technologies that make a meaningful impact on climate change.
"The suggested expenditure of $2 billion of taxpayer money —"for the demonstration of one or two" new reactors—falls far short of the true cost of just one reactor and even two reactors would not make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions, even if nuclear energy was truly carbon free. Buried in the report text lies the revealing yet preposterous admission that reactors in the United States must double or triple over the next 30 to 50 years, and grow ten-fold worldwide in order to have 'a large impact on greenhouse gas emissions.'
"This absurd pie-in-the-sky thinking is easily debunked by simple math. To meet these goals a new U.S. reactor would have to come on-line every four months for the next 50 years, beginning today. The price tag would soar to at least $800 billion. Add to that the weighty and costly infrastructure, including numerous Yucca Mountain-sized radioactive waste dumps, heightened and necessary new security and safety measures, a couple dozen or more new uranium enrichment plants and the untenable resulting nuclear proliferation risks, and the Commission's nuclear vision departs from fantasy to downright dangerous.
"In short, the Commission's findings, once the environmental veneer and rhetoric are stripped out, read like a discredited nuclear industry wish list. The Commission has clung stubbornly to the energy delusions of nuclear power and "clean coal" and produced what amounts to a Nuclear Energy Institute letter to Santa Claus. For that, it deserves nothing more than a lump of coal in its Christmas stocking."
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