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April 26, 2005

Nice try

John Ritch, director general of the World Nuclear Association, goes on the offensive in the Washington Post:

In the current debate over the energy bill, one important factor is being all but ignored: A global renaissance in nuclear energy is gaining momentum, and it could have greater implications than any or all of the other proposed methods being discussed for dealing with our energy problems…
Around the world, there is a new realism about nuclear energy, a recognition of its essential virtue, which is its capacity to deliver power cleanly, safely, reliably and on a massive scale. This thinking is eclipsing old-school anti-nuclear environmentalism…
Every authoritative energy analysis points to an inescapable imperative: Humankind cannot conceivably achieve a global clean-energy revolution without a rapid expansion of nuclear power to generate electricity, produce hydrogen for tomorrow's vehicles and drive seawater-desalination plants to meet a fast-emerging world water crisis.

All good points. Unfortunately, Ritch also lapses into some old-school thinking:

Full-scale nuclear investment is still impeded by the absence of carbon penalties, the short-term bias of deregulated energy markets and the fact that 21st-century nuclear reactors have not yet achieved economies of scale. Governments must prime the pump using start-up aids such as loan guarantees and tax credits for first-of-a-kind engineering costs.

“First-of-a-kind engineering costs”? The first nuclear-power plant came on stream 50 years ago. And as Ritch himself notes, some 440 civil reactors now produce one-sixth of the world’s electricity. But while coal-fired plants have reaped the benefits of standardization over the past half-century, the nuclear industry has continued to flail over basic design issues. It’s a little late to be passing round the begging bowl.

UPDATE: Gary Becker and Richard Posner duke it out over nuclear power on the Becker-Posner Blog.

Posted by Stephen at 11:51 AM in Energy + environment | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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