These are comments on an op-ed promoting government subsidies for new nuclear technologies. The op-ed is posted here: http://www.sentinelsource.com/opinion/columnists/guest/nuclear-innovations-deserve-a-boost-by-bob-n-leach/article_b48476e0-c7b3-569e-b0ae-4af7e8ddb607.html
First, the headline on this piece should be “Nuclear industry looking for yet another taxpayer handout.” Let’s be clear: what’s under discussion here is subsidizing a mature industry’s research and development with federal taxpayer dollars
Second, even nuclear proponents should acknowledge that it is NOT the case that “nuclear power generates a large amount of carbon-free energy.” The nuclear fuel cycle produce carbon at every point: in mining, enrichment, fuel fabrication, building and eventually demolishing the reactors, and in waste disposal. It is true that it is LESS carbon intensive than burning coal or oil, but it is also considerably MORE carbon intensive than energy efficiency and renewables. “Sammysock” complains about “lies” killing nuclear power; well here’s just one of those used repeatedly to promote it.
Third, nuclear power — especially the unproven technologies discussed here — is VASTLY more expensive than energy efficiency (all forms of energy generation are, in fact), but also considerably more expensive than utility-scale wind and solar. Worse, the cost curves are moving in diametrically opposite directions: nuclear power of all kinds is getting more expensive year by year, precisely while solar and wind prices have been plummeting.
Fourth, small modular reactors, which Leach promotes, are even less economically efficient than larger ones: all of the same overhead with regards to the fuel cycle and permitting, but a far smaller revenue stream to offset the fixed costs. Indeed, that’s why the private sector isn’t building them.
Finally, it is worth noting that the United States (and other countries) have now invested bllions of dollars in nuclear power and to show for it, we’ve now had 3 major accidents that the industry assured us could simply never happen and a world wide spent-fuel problem that no one has resolved despite repeated promises and assurances from governments all around the world.
Successful industries do not require massive government subsidies after 50 years in order to develop new products and prosper. Steve Jobs did not come running to the federal taxpayers when he developed the Ipad or the Iphone. Surely, Bill Gates, of all people on this planet, can afford to promote his own technological breakthroughs using his own resources!