Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Nuclear Illusion

A widely heralded view holds that nuclear power is experiencing a dramatic worldwide revival and vibrant growth, because it’s competitive, necessary, reliable, secure, and vital for fuel security and climate protection.

That’s all false.

In fact, nuclear power is continuing its decades-long collapse in the global marketplace because it’s grossly uncompetitive, unneeded, and obsolete—so hopelessly uneconomic that one needn’t debate whether it’s clean and safe; it weakens electric reliability and national security; and it worsens climate change compared with devoting the same money and time to more effective options.

Yet the more decisively nuclear power is humbled by swifter and cheaper rivals, the more zealously its advocates claim it has no serious competitors. The web of old fictions ingeniously spun by a coordinated and intensive global campaign is spread by a credulous press and boosted by the nuclear enthusiasts who, probably for the first time ever, now happen to lead nearly all major governments at once. Many people have been misled, including four well-known individuals with long environmental histories—amplified by the industry’s echo box into a sham but widely believed claim of broad green endorsement—and some key legislators. As a result, the U.S. Congress in late 2007 voted $18.5 billion, and the industry will soon be back for another $30+ billion, in new loan guarantees for up to 80% of the cost of new U.S. nuclear units. And the long-pronuclear British government, abruptly reversing its well-reasoned 2002 policy, has decided to replace its old nuclear plants with new ones, although, it claims, without public subsidy3—a feat no country has yet achieved. Thus policy diverges ever farther from market realities.

Dr Amory Lovins - head of the Rocky Mountain Institute - on the real status of nuclear power.