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Does nuclear power cost massive billion gov subsidies?

  1. Nov 10, 2008 #1
    This article

    claims nuclear power is not economically competitive, that the cost of construction is in the billions and that only through heavy gov't assisted subsidies can one be built.

    The private sector, businesses, understand that without gov't subsidy (i.e corporate welfare) nuclear power would not be cost-competitive.

    "But Wall Street has given thumbs down to a technology that can't compete with Solartopian sources like wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and other green energies."

    "A strong lobby with a slick, expensive pubic relations campaign is now pushing new nukes here"

    "The future of new reactor construction thus depends on massive federal and state subsidies. In the fall of 2007, the industry inserted into a Congressional energy bill a package of loan guarantees meant to provide $50 billion in taxpayer-backed funds to build new reactors."

    "Reactor projects fail about 50% of the time, and such a package could have stuck taxpayers with a massive liability."

    "But in today’s financial and political climate, atomic energy cannot compete. A green-powered planet is the only one that will sell on both Main Street and Wall Street."

    I am aware that the cost per wattage of electricity generated nuclear is comparable to coal in cost (and natural gas and oil)

    but do these figures figure in gov't subsidy? Do nuclear power companies "repay" the initial gov't outlays?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 10, 2008 #2


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    Yes green power is vastly cheaper, the world only uses oil and countries without oil use nuclear power because of some global conspiracy. It's all controlled by the stonecutters, they also make Steve Gutneberg a star and are beleived tobe resposnible for 'friends' running for so many seasons.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2008
  4. Nov 11, 2008 #3


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    It is probably true that the nuclear power industry has had, especially in the 60ies and 70ies, a serious push in the back from government funding, mainly in the form of research.
    But it is not true that actual nuclear power station construction profits from public money (although from some tax cuts and so on): in fact the contribution of the state is mainly negative, due to red tape costs, license costs and so on.

    But "green" energy also receives a lot of subsidies, in two ways: first of all, direct subventions in the construction, and second, by forcing the local utility to buy variable power back at an uninteresting, high price way over what it is worth on the market.

    The main problem with most green energies is that they are not capable to deliver the bulk of the power as of now, according to demand. It doesn't mean that there cannot be niches where green power can be useful, and it doesn't mean that the technology cannot evolve. But as of now, nuclear and green don't play in the same market, and it is erroneous to tell people that there is a choice. There isn't. The only real choice is coal or nuclear for the bulk of the market, and then you can have a lot of minority contributions and niche applications from green stuff if you want. But "all-green" is simply impossible at this moment.
  5. Nov 11, 2008 #4


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    In the roughly 30 years since the last nuclear plant construction projects began in the US, the US wind generation capacity has reached 1800 MW. That isn't enough to even offset one of the many cancelled nuclear plants. And that is despite the massive push for renewables mentioned by the OP.

    One way or another, the US is going to have to get back in touch with reality. There is a second round of energy deregulation coming in a year that is going to smack people in the face with a doubling of their electric bills to wake them up.
  6. Nov 11, 2008 #5


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    The above is just FLAT OUT WRONG!!! Nuclear power is cheaper than wind by at least a
    factor of 2.

    Although a nuclear power plant is expensive - the price tag is in the billions - you get a LOT
    of energy from the nuclear power plant.

    The average "bus bar" [ at the output of the power plant ] cost of nuclear generated electricity
    is about 2 cents per kW-hour. That includes the cost of waste disposal, insurance, and

    The best wind turbines produce power at about 5 cents per kW-hour; or more than DOUBLE
    the cost of nuclear power.

    The disadvantage of nuclear power plants is that they are large. As Al Gore likes to joke; that
    nuclear power plants come in only one size - "Xtra Large".

    For smaller, less developed nations; it doesn't make sense to build nuclear power plants - one
    or two plants would supply the entire demand for the nation. However, that's putting all your eggs
    in one basket. When a power plant goes down for refueling - you lose 50-100% of your generating

    That's why smaller, less developed nations use wind - which comes in much smaller quanta.

    However, for a nation the size of the USA; we can use power plants the size of typical nuclear
    power plants, and get our electricity for HALF the cost of wind power and less than a QUARTER
    the current cost of solar.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
  7. Nov 11, 2008 #6


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    The URL you provided tells me EXACTLY what I need to know: the article is by Wasserman.

    Wasserman is an anti-nuke that has written LOTS of factually INACCURATE articles - all because
    he's against nuclear power.

    You have to really look at what the anti-nukes call a "subsidy". They tend to count all the money
    that the US Government spends on nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors for US Navy submarines
    as "subsidies" to the nuclear power industry.

    They also claim that the Government is providing the nuclear power industry a "subsidy" by providing
    nuclear waste disposal and insurance coverage. What they don't tell you is that the nuclear industry
    PAYS for those services.

    For example, is the Government providing a subsidy to the airline industry because the Government runs
    the FAA and the Air Traffic Control system? Without an Air Trafffic Control [ ATC ] system; the airlines
    couldn't operate their flights safely and make the money that they do. So isn't the Government subsidizing
    the airline industry? Well it might appear that way to the UNEDUCATED - but the airlines PAY for those
    services via "landing fees". The Government charges the airlines for the services it provides.

    Likewise, their is a special tax on nuclear generated electricity to pay for waste disposal and insurance;
    but "journalists" like Wasserman won't tell you about that side of the ledger. They only point to the
    services the Government provides and calls them a "subsidy".

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
  8. Nov 11, 2008 #7

    D H

    Staff: Mentor

    Yet another illustration of the rule always use a smilie when humor is intended, particularly dry, ironic British humour :biggrin:. Without that smilie, the humor-impaired might otherwise think the post in question was serious.

    I failed to follow the rule myself!
  9. Nov 11, 2008 #8


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    I think mgb_phys was being ironic... :smile:
  10. Nov 11, 2008 #9


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    EXACTLY. Consider the "anti-subsidiies" that Government has foisted on the nuclear industry.

    For example, LILCO - Long Island Lighting COmpany - which is the electric utility that services
    Long Island New York built a nuclear power plant on Long Island called "Shoreham."

    The then Governor of New York was Mario Cuomo (D) - who was very opposed to nuclear power.
    The Governor of New York appoints the members of the New York Public Utilities Commission; and
    Cuomo appointed people who shared his anti-nuclear power views.

    The Public Utilities Commission, which sets the rates that the utility can charge for its power; told
    LILCO that if LILCO operated the Shoreham plant - then they would have to sell the power for FREE!!
    They could not charge for electricity generated by Shoreham. However, if LILCO agreed to never
    operate the Shoreham reactor and to dismantle the plant - then the New York rate payers would be
    charged an amount that would allow LILCO to recoup its investment in Shoreham.

    So there's the choice confronting LILCO. LILCO borrowed over a billion dollars to build Shoreham, and
    if they operated it - they would receive ZERO income - and LILCO would be out the construction and
    operating costs of the Shoreham plant. If LILCO dismantled Shoreham; then LILCO would get its
    investment back from the ratepayers of New York; even though those ratepayers would not get
    anything in return.

    That is just ONE example of what nuclear utilities have had to face. Is it any wonder that the CEOs
    of utilities are apprehensive about investing in nuclear power given that history. That's why we may
    have to entice them back into building the nuclear power plants we need to power the USA without
    polluting the atmosphere with CO2.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
  11. Nov 11, 2008 #10


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    I love the dry British humor. Unfortunately, a lot of times when I think someone is attempting this
    dry humor - I find out that they are really serious.

    Yes - the smilie would really help.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
  12. Nov 11, 2008 #11
    He's not counterpunch's only anti-nuke, but the claim that nuclear power is a form of corporate welfare, sort of like the military-industrial complex, a massive lobby demanding billions upfront to pay for nuclear, when it could instead be used to fund wind and solar power. Partisan politics takes tax payer money to provide upfront startupcosts to building a nuclear plant, rather than wind farms and solar power.
  13. Nov 11, 2008 #12


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    EXACTLY!!! I live near one of the USA's largest wind turbine farms; Altamont Pass windfarm
    between Livermore and Tracy.



    The Altamont Pass wind farm is sited in an IDEAL site for a wind farm. It sits in a pass in the
    Diablo Range in the Altamont Hills. To the west of the pass is the San Francisco Bay Area with
    its temperate climate. On the east side of the pass is the hotter San Joachim / central valley of
    California. The rising hot air from the heat of the central valley is replenished with cooler air from
    the Bay Area. That air flows through the Altamont Pass - and through the windfarm. This makes
    the Altamont Pass site nearly ideal for a wind farm.

    That's why the Altamont Pass is one of the largest, most powerful windfarms in the USA.

    However, even though Altamont Pass is one of the most powerful windfarms; its average power is
    just about equivalent to the power of a SINGLE engine on a Boeing 777 airliner.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
  14. Nov 11, 2008 #13


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    The problem is that wind and solar can NOT MEET the demand. The National Academy of
    Science and Engineering calculates that wind and solar can AT MOST meet about 15-20% of
    the USA's electric power demand. Wind / solar is only a band-aid partial solution; what do
    we do for the other 80-85% of the power demad?

    On Sept 11, 2007, Greenpeace co-founder Dr. Patrick Moore gave a seminar to the World Affairs
    Council of Western Michigan in Grand Rapids. The seminar was broadcast on C-SPAN and you
    can get a DVD of the seminar from them.


    Dr. Moore pointed out that the countries of Europe took different routes to meeting their Kyoto Protocol
    targets for reducing CO2. Denmark went into wind power, Germany went with solar power. In terms
    of CO2 emission per capita; Denmark is now the LARGEST CO2 POLLUTER in Europe, followed by

    Despite MASSIVE investments in wind turbines, Denmark gets about 12% of its electric power from its
    wind turbines. So where does it get the power for the 88% shortfall? It gets that from its backup power
    supply which consists of coal fired power plants. That's a larger percentage of coal produced power than
    the USA. That's why Denmark is the biggest per capita CO2 emitter in Europe. Similarly for Germany
    which is the second biggest CO2 polluter per capita.

    The cleanest countries in terms of CO2 emission are France and Sweden at 6.2 tons per person per
    year and 6.3 tons per person per year, respectively. [ The comparable figure for the USA is a little
    over 20 tons per person per year ]

    So how did France and Sweden become the cleanest? The bulk of France's electric power is from
    nuclear power and Sweden is about 50% nuclear and 50% hydro power.

    Dr. Moore also covers the fact that nuclear has about one-fifth to one-tenth the carbon footprint
    of wind and solar in terms of the full lifecycle. Neither nuclear, wind, nor solar is truly carbon
    emission free when you consider the CO2 emitted in the manufacture of the steel for reactor vessels,
    pipes and rebar for nuclear; turbines and towers for wind, and heliostats for solar. However,
    you get so much more energy per amount of steel needed with nuclear that in terms of full
    life cycle CO2 emitted; nuclear is one-fifth to one-tenth the CO2 emission for either wind or

    The nations of Europe have done the experiment for us. Those that thought they were going "green"
    by investing in wind turbines and solar arrays turned out to be the biggest CO2 polluters since
    wind and solar power can't deliver on the demand; just as the National Academy of Science and
    Engineering stated. The winners in terms of lowering CO2 pollution are the nations that embraced
    nuclear power.

    As Dr. Moore states on his website and in his testimony to Congress:


    "Nuclear energy is the only non-greenhouse gas-emitting power source that can effectively replace
    fossil fuels and satisfy global demand....

    In fact, the electric sector’s carbon emissions would have been 29 per cent higher without nuclear power.

    And while hydro, geothermal and wind energy all form an important part of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels,
    without nuclear energy that reliance will likely never diminish. In 2002, carbon emissions avoided by
    nuclear power were 1.7 times larger than those avoided by all renewables combined."

    —Dr. Patrick Moore, PhD

    The nations of Europe have done the experiment for us. Why should we invest heavily in the power
    techonologies used by the LOSERS - Denmark [wind] and Germany [solar]? In short, wind and solar
    can't deliver what is needed.

    If we are serious about reducing CO2 as well as providing the energy we need for our society;
    our money is BEST SPENT on nuclear power.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2008
  15. Nov 11, 2008 #14
    dear Dr. Greenman,

    I want to thank you and make it clear that I am for the most part supportive of nuclear power. I voted for McCain over Obama b/c while Mccain stated he'd like to see "70+" new nuclear plants built, Obama said he wants proof it's safe, which is codeword for he's against nuke to appease his base. (Not that I agree with McCain on social issues like abortion).

    But how do you respond to the anti-nuke claim that nuclear is expensive, and that the alleged low figures provided by nuke partisans do not reflect the true cost of gov't assistend subsidy startup and outlayers, charged and financed to taxpayers, costs of nuclear and that half of the construction projects end in 'failure" (which of course makes it even more risky and expensive). (Not to mention "costs" of transporting and storing 'dangerous' nuclear waste).

    I know that ecos are against fossil fuels and coal esp (due to CO2 global warming myth) but is nuclear competitive against fossil fuels? While www.counterpunch.com are avowed leftists opposed to the free market and to businesses, they claim that private businesses and free markets would not invest in nuclear power with their own private funds, but rather, they lobby for gov't tax subsidy and corporate welfare to pay for its construction. (Somewhat ironic since they favor big-gov't socialism to solve other issues like universal health care)
  16. Nov 11, 2008 #15


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    Nuclear power plants are expensive in terms of total dollars; but in terms of cost per unit of energy
    delivered - they are CHEAPER than the wind and solar. Nuclear power plants are expensive but
    deliver LARGE amounts of energy. Wind and solar power plants are cheaper than nuclear plants by
    a large factor; but the amount of energy they deliver compared to nuclear is lower by an even LARGER

    As far as the anti-nukes claiming that nuclear power receives a bunch of "subsidies"; they have
    traditionally pointed to the money that the Government spends on nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors
    for US Navy submarines - and THAT is what they call a subsidy to the nuclear industry. Additionally,
    they point to services like waste disposal and insurance that the Government mandated be provided
    by the Government - but they leave off the fact that the nuclear industry is TAXED to pay for those

    That's similar to the airline industry in my previous example. Would it be honest to say that the
    Government is subsidizing the airline industry because it provides the Air Traffic Control system?
    NO - because the airline industry gets TAXED to pay for that.

    As far as all those "failures"; most of them were CAUSED by the anti-nukes. They protested, went into
    Courts and filed lawsuits and held up the power plants. They were aided by a quirk of US licensing law.
    We have a 2-step licensing system. A company can apply for a "construction license" and then has to
    fight in the Courts...but finally the Government and the Courts decide they can build the power plant.

    So the utility borrows the money, builds the power plant, and the NRC inspectors can validate that the
    plant was constructed according to the required specs. But unlike when you build a house, that doesn't
    mean that the company can operate the plant. They have to apply for an "operating license".

    Because the operating license constitutes a "new decision" by the Government; the issuance of that
    license can again be challenged in Court; the "intervenors" get a "second bite at the apple". The Court
    case can take YEARS - and the utility has to pay on the loan, and the power plant is earning NOTHING.

    THAT is how the price of the power plant gets driven up. Essentially, the power company keeps borrowing
    more money to "pay" the loans they already have. That's what drives the cost of the plant up.
    For example, PG&E's Diablo Canyon plant was finished in 1973; but didn't start operating until 1984.

    Back in the '60s and '70s; the power companies weren't looking for subsidies to build nuclear power plants.
    They wanted to build them because they thought that was the best way to go. However, a LOT of those
    companies lost a LOT of money on the process, and are pretty soured on the prospect of trying to bring
    a nuclear power plant on line. Can you blame them? The "safe" thing for the company's pocket book is
    to just build another fossil fueled power plant - the regulations and opposition are minor compared to a
    nuclear plant.

    But more fossil fueled plants are NOT what we need. We want the more environmentally friendly nuclear
    power plant. How are we going to get skeptical utility executives to invest in nuclear power once again.
    We may have to "bribe" them - give them some money upfront so that they'd be willing to take the risk.

    We shouldn't have to do that - but it's our own fault for allowing the anti-nukes to do the damage they did.

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
  17. Nov 11, 2008 #16
    First, I want to say thanks for some background information, as well as leftists-hi jinks.

    to be completely honest, I'm a global warming skeptic, so I don't have a problem with fossil fuel burning. That's outside the scope here. You say that nuclear is less expensive than solar and wind, but is it less expensive than clean-burning natural gas? (I know that coal is full of noxious compounds)

    I understand what you said about the two-licensing system driving up costs. In nations where this is not an issue, do private sector private investors invest in nuclear power, or are the start-up costs so prohibitive they also rely on gov't assistance? I understand in the US it's the result of anti-nukes courtroom tactics that nuclear power is expensive (which they then use as a reason against nukes) but what of other nations from France to India to Japan and Korea?

  18. Nov 11, 2008 #17


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    With regard to subsidies paid by the nuclear industry to the federal government.

    Dollars and the Nuclear Waste Fund
    The same companies pay a variety of other taxes.


    For some costs, see -

    More info
  19. Nov 11, 2008 #18
    I'm playing devil's advocate here since Obama is non-nuke (closet anti-nuke) and Mccain is openly pro-nuke (one reason rock star Madonna compared him to Hitler), but counterpunch,


    "Pulse of the Planet The Clean, Green Nuclear Machine?

    "As in other countries, the American nuclear power industry is gearing up to build 34 new nuclear plants (adding to the current stock of 103 commercial reactors)"

    "Is nuclear energy truly the clean, green machine that the Nuclear Energy Institute and its proponents make it out to be? Is it truly cost-effective?"

    "The average cost to build a nuclear power plant is reportedly some 2 billion dollars, though a 2007 estimate including costs to generate power by Lew Hay, chairman and CEO of Florida Power and Light, suggests that "the cost of a two-unit plant will be on the order of magnitude of $13 to $14 billion." Actual flow of energy will not occur for years. Technological innovation has reduced the time it takes to build a nuclear reactor, it will still take some 7 - 12 years after plans are approved for energy to flow."

    "The no-emissions carbon footprint label assigned by the Nuclear Energy Institute ignores the significant environmental impact resulting from mining, transportation, processing fuel, using water as energy and coolant, and building nuclear power facilities. Cost-effective energy becomes an even more problematic label when you factor in the short-term and long-term health consequences of absorbing toxic heavy metals and the radioactive nature of these exposures, and the health care costs of treating such illness and disease."

    I am under the impression that under Obama, "I'm opposed to turning Nevada into a nuclear waste dump" rhetoric (read, no new nukes under my administration), so I'm not sure where she got the 34 new nuclear plants (or where McCain got the building 50 new nuclear plants)
  20. Nov 11, 2008 #19


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    If nuclear power were not cost-effective; the French, British, Japanese and Swedes would all have
    terminated their programs long ago. If run in a proper environment, without the Government and Courts
    working against it; nuclear power can flourish.
    Mining and transportation of fuel has been something we've done for years - with coal. Since the fuel
    for nuclear reactors is more energy intensive; we have to mine and transport less.

    I wonder every time I hear the water usage argument. Nuclear power plants require cooling water
    because they use a Rankine steam turbine cycle to turn the generator. That's the SAME cycle that
    is used in about 90% of the power plants in the USA. Why is the water usage of a nuclear power plant
    somehow such a big concern?

    Nuclear power doesn't spew mercury and other heavy metals into the environment. As far as spewing
    radioactivity into the environment; coal power plants seem to be the champs at that according to
    scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory:


    Dr. Gregory Greenman
  21. Nov 11, 2008 #20


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    Plans for 30 units have been submitted by utility plans to the NRC. Each utility has to get in line to have the NRC consider their COLs. For new plant status (currently 30), see - http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstat...ants/graphicsandcharts/newnuclearplantstatus/

    Most of these units are planned for existing sites.

    I've heard that large components are currently on order for 6 nuclear plants.

    I've also read that the US currently has the capacity to build 2 nuclear plants per year.

    From ground breaking to testing should take about 60 months, but perhaps that's optimistic. The advanced plants might take a little longer. A potential hindrance is the lack of qualified (nuclear grade) workers.

    Back around 2000, it was estimated that a new unit would cost about $1.5-2 billion, however with the increase cost of raw materials, particular steel and concrete, those costs have escalated to somewhere around $6-7 billion/unit. On the other hand, oil prices have fallen about 60% since July, and the cost of raw materials has also decreased with the drop in demand.

    So we'll see.
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