Thursday, June 18, 2009

Republican calls for More Nuke Plants Ignore Costs and Dangers of Dismantling Old Mothballed Reactors.

The title says it all. Republicans love to rub the nuke energy option in the face Democratic lawmakers. Despite the outrageous costs added to their customers energy bills to build new plants and insure each with federal taxpayer money (the private sector won’t take the risk), Republicans won’t honestly deal with the problem of paying for the dismantling of the older more dangerous plants.

According to AP, “estimates of dismantling costs have soared by more than $4.6 billion (for all plants) because rising energy and labor costs, while the investment funds that are supposed to pay for shutting plants down have lost $4.4 billion in the battered stock market. The amount of money set aside for dismantling the plants has decreased at nearly four of every five reactors. Radioactive waste could leak from abandoned plants into ground water or released into the air, and spent nuclear fuel rods could be stolen by terrorists. The average cost of dismantling a nuclear reactor is now estimated now at $450 million. The average plant owner has about $300 million saved up for the job. Typically, the money is raised through a small surcharge on electric rates."

You might recall that in Missouri, construction had to be put off because the $6 billion cost was so prohibitive that rate payer bills would have gone through the roof. Plant owners appear to be motivated by squeezing every cost to its bare minimum at the expense of quality nuke management and public safety. Conservatives would be crazy right now to repeat the mantra that the private sector can take care of itself and that government should stay out of the way.

"The companies that own almost half the nation's nuclear reactors are not setting aside enough money to dismantle them, and many may sit idle for decades and pose safety and security risks as a result, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Here are two unsettling thoughts: “But some analysts worry the utility companies that own nuclear plants might not even exist in six decades.” Also, “Plant operators appear to benefit from NRC rules that don't require them to set aside money to store old nuclear fuel, demolish buildings, or return the plant sites to pristine states. Although some states require a full site restoration, the federal government does not.”

Are these idle plants really a danger?

Last week, British officials reported on a 2007 leak in a cooling tank at the decommissioned Sizewell-A nuclear plant. If the leak had not been promptly discovered, officials said, nuclear fuel rods could have caught fire and sent airborne radioactive waste along the English coast, harming plant operators or the public.
Isn’t it time we build more new nuke plants, maybe 100 of them, just like Sen. John McCain recently proposed?

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