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Web Letter

Loved the articles, but I get so sick of the nuclear industry insistingthat it is cheap and green, when it is so neither.

David Fleming's article "WhyNuclear Power Cannot Be a Major Energy Source," for the Foundationfor the Economics of Sustainability, describes in detail the enormousamount of fossil energy necessary to mine uranium, extract and prepareit for use in a nuclear reactor, build the reactor, and, when its lifeis over, to decommission it and look after its radioactive waste. Hestates that "when the energy costs of construction and decommissioningare taken into account, nuclear reactors, averaged over their lifetimes,produce more carbon dioxide than gas-fired power stations (per unit ofelectricity generated), until they have been in full-power operation forabout seven years." Furthermore much more potent greenhouse gases thanCO2, are used in the fuel cycle.

The nuclear industry gets about $9 billion a year in federal subsidies,trailing only oil and coal in federal energy aid. The Energy Policy Actof 2005 gave the industry an estimated $12 billion more in tax breaks,and now nuclear industry lobbyists inserted a provision into the Senateenergy bill of more billion dollar taxpayer subsidies through loanguarantees. The 1950s Price-Anderson Act capped industry liability atabout $10 billion in the event of an accident, though a major nuclearmeltdown could easily run fifty times that. The industry's greed--and/orfear of the non-viability of building reactors--seems to know no bounds.Even the Congressional Budget Office recognizes the proposed additionalsubsidies as a bad idea.

Experts say building nuclear plants is so financially risky that theonly way they would be considered is if the federal governmentguarantees investors against loan defaults or other problems--putting theburden on taxpayers. And even if building proceeded at breakneck speed,the time and cost involved make it doubtful that enough plants could bebuilt to make a dent in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, while thewaste problem remains unresolved, as well as the fact that reactors makegreat terrorist targets.

The billions funneled to the nuclear industry would be better spentcleaning up and decommissioning existing reactors while we still havethe energy to do so and investing in renewable energy.

Wanda Ballentine

St. Paul, MN

Nov 11 2007 - 11:34pm