U.S. Should Bring an End to the Nuclear Era
It shouldn't take a catastrophic meltdown on American soil to prod our government into action
February 3, 2012
Before the meltdowns and explosions at Fukushima spewed radiation into the air and ocean, again reminding the world of the inherent dangers of nuclear power, the so-called nuclear renaissance was already dead upon arrival in the U.S. But it wasn't the risk of a nuclear accident, the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, or the intractable problem of radioactive waste that doomed the plans of the nuclear industry; it was the atomic economics.
Nuclear power is prohibitively expensive, and the fiasco at Fukushima will only make it more so. When Progress Energy first proposed a new nuclear plant in Florida, the price tag was $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion dollars. The cost has since ballooned to as much as $22.5 billion, and Progress just negotiated a settlement that would allow it to kill the construction contract. Several other corporations that applied for new reactors have already asked government regulators to suspend their reviews.
When Warren Buffett's corporation MidAmerican looked into building a new nuclear reactor, it determined that it did not make "economic sense." Rather than risk billions of dollars on a new nuclear reactor, Buffett's corporation just made headlines by investing in renewable energy. Americans, President Obama, and the Congress have a choice. We can heed the caution of the "world's greatest investor" or we can we pursue new nuclear plants that Wall Street has called a "bet the farm" risk.
Rather than expand the use of this dangerous and stupidly expensive technology, our government should stop subsidizing nuclear corporations' bad investments and instead develop plans to phase out nuclear power and better secure the deadly radioactive wastes. As former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kansaid at the World Economic Forum in Davos, "We should aim for a society that can function without nuclear energy."
Successfully phasing out nuclear power in the U.S. and securing the deadly radioactive wastes while avoiding another catastrophic accident will be a daunting challenge. Nearly a third of U.S. reactors are of the same vulnerable design as Fukushima and just as dangerous. The Fukushima fiasco has already propelled several governments to phase out nuclear power and expand renewable energy and efficiency programs. The Obama administration should follow their lead. It shouldn't take a catastrophic meltdown on American soil to prod our government into action. Rather than build more nuclear reactors and produce even more radioactive waste, the U.S. should bring an end to the nuclear era.