Amory Lovins On Nuclear Power  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Democracy Now has an interview with Amory Lovins, looking at way nuclear power is a poor option to choose. Reason number 1 - cost. From Expanding Nuclear Power Makes Climate Change Worse:

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, talk about nuclear power. Why do you feel it’s not an option, given the oil crisis?

AMORY LOVINS: Well, first of all, electricity and oil have essentially nothing to do with each other, and anybody who thinks the contrary is really ignorant about energy. Less than two percent of our electricity is made from oil. Less than two percent of our oil makes electricity. Those numbers are falling. And essentially, all the oil involved is actually the heavy, gooey bottom of the barrel you can’t even make mobility fuels out of anyway.

What nuclear would do is displace coal, our most abundant domestic fuel. And this sounds good for climate, but actually, expanding nuclear makes climate change worse, for a very simple reason. Nuclear is incredibly expensive. The costs have just stood up on end lately. Wall Street Journal recently reported that they’re about two to four times the cost that the industry was talking about just a year ago. And the result of that is that if you buy more nuclear plants, you’re going to get about two to ten times less climate solution per dollar, and you’ll get it about twenty to forty times slower, than if you buy instead the cheaper, faster stuff that is walloping nuclear and coal and gas, all kinds of central plans, in the marketplace. And those competitors are efficient use of electricity and what’s called micropower, which is both renewables, except big hydro, and making electricity and heat together, in fact, recent buildings, which takes about half of the money, fuel and carbon of making them separately, as we normally do.

So, nuclear cannot actually deliver the climate or the security benefits claimed for it. It’s unrelated to oil. And it’s grossly uneconomic, which means the nuclear revival that we often hear about is not actually happening. It’s a very carefully fabricated illusion. And the reason it isn’t happening is there are no buyers. That is, Wall Street is not putting a penny of private capital into the industry, despite 100-plus percent subsidies.

AMY GOODMAN: Why?

AMORY LOVINS: It’s uneconomic. It costs, for example, about three times as much as wind power, which is booming.

Let me give you some numbers about what’s happening in the marketplace, because that’s reality, as far as I’m concerned. I really take markets seriously. 2006, the last full year of data we have, nuclear worldwide added a little bit of capacity, more than all of it from upgrading old plants, because the new ones they built were smaller than the retirements of old plants. So they added 1.4 billion watts. Sounds like a lot. Well, it’s about one big plant’s worth worldwide. That was less than photovoltaics, solar cells added in capacity. It was a tenth what wind power added. It was a thirtieth to a fortieth of what micropower added.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s micropower?

AMORY LOVINS: Again, it’s renewables, other than big hydro, plus co-generating electricity and heat together, usually in industry.

In 2006, micropower, for the first time, produced more electricity worldwide than nuclear did. A sixth of the world’s electricity is now micropower, a third of the new electricity. In a dozen industrial countries, micropower makes anywhere from a sixth to over half of all the electricity elsewhere. This is not a fringe activity anymore.

China, which has the world’s most ambitious nuclear program, by the end of 2006 had seven times that much capacity in distributed renewables, and they were growing it seven times faster. Take a look at 2007, in which the US or Spain or China added more wind capacity than the world added nuclear capacity. The US added more wind capacity last year than we’ve added coal capacity in the past five years put together.

And renewables, other than big hydro, got last year $71 billion of private capital; nuclear, as usual, got zero. It is only bought by central planners with a draw on the public purse. What does this tell you? I mean, what part of the story does anybody who take markets seriously not get?

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, well, the media clearly in this country doesn’t get it, because it is raised over and over again by the candidates. I mean, it seems that Senator McCain has a favorite number: a hundred years in Iraq, also hoping for a hundred more new nuclear power plants. He had said something about, he doesn’t want to lose the knowledge of building, since the last one was built more than thirty years ago; the people are dying who had built it, so we’ve got to rush and build them now.

AMORY LOVINS: Well, you could say that’s already been lost, in the sense that most of a nuclear plant built now in the US, if there were any, would have to be imported, which, by the way, means we buy it in weak US dollars, which is part of the incredible cost escalation we’ve seen. Moody’s latest number is $7,500 a kilowatt. That’s, again, as the Journal said, about two to four times the numbers that were being bandied about just last year by promoters.

1 comments

Anonymous   says 7:35 AM

Spread the word! This is important info.

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