Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Investing in a Bubble Mania Stock Market Trending Towards Financial Crisis 2.0 CRASH! - 9th Sep 21
2.Tech Stocks Bubble Valuations 2000 vs 2021 - 25th Sep 21
3.Stock Market FOMO Going into Crash Season - 8th Oct 21
4.Stock Market FOMO Hits September Brick Wall - Evergrande China's Lehman's Moment - 22nd Sep 21
5.Crypto Bubble BURSTS! BTC, ETH, XRP CRASH! NiceHash Seizes Funds on Account Halting ALL Withdrawals! - 19th May 21
6.How to Protect Your Self From a Stock Market CRASH / Bear Market? - 14th Oct 21
7.AI Stocks Portfolio Buying and Selling Levels Going Into Market Correction - 11th Oct 21
8.Why Silver Price Could Crash by 20%! - 5th Oct 21
9.Powell: Inflation Might Not Be Transitory, After All - 3rd Oct 21
10.Global Stock Markets Topped 60 Days Before the US Stocks Peaked - 23rd Sep 21
Last 7 days
Inflation and the Crazy Crypto Markets - 23rd Oct 21
Easy PC Upgrades with Motherboard Combos - Overclockers UK Unboxing - MB, Memory and Ryzen 5600x CPU - 23rd Oct 21
Gold Mining Stocks Q3 2021 - 23rd Oct 21
Gold calmly continues cobbling its Handle, Miners lay in wait - 23rd Oct 21
US Economy Has Been in an Economic Depression Since 2008 - 22nd Oct 21
Extreme Ratios Point to Gold and Silver Price Readjustments - 22nd Oct 21
Bitcoin $100K or Ethereum $10K—which happens first? - 22nd Oct 21
This Isn’t Sci-Fi: How AI Is About To Disrupt This $11 Trillion Industry - 22nd Oct 21
Ravencoin RVN About to EXPLODE to NEW HIGHS! Last Chance to Buy Before it goes to the MOON! - 21st Oct 21
Stock Market Animal Spirits Returning - 21st Oct 21
Inflation Advances, and So Does Gold — Except That It Doesn’t - 21st Oct 21
Why A.I. Is About To Trigger The Next Great Medical Breakthrough - 21st Oct 21
Gold Price Slowly Going Nowhere - 20th Oct 21
Shocking Numbers Show Government Crowding Out Real Economy - 20th Oct 21
Crude Oil Is in the Fast Lane, But Where Is It Going? - 20th Oct 21
3 Tech Stocks That Could Change The World - 20th Oct 21
Best AI Tech Stocks ETF and Investment Trusts - 19th Oct 21
Gold Mining Stocks: Will Investors Dump the Laggards? - 19th Oct 21
The Most Exciting Medical Breakthrough Of The Decade? - 19th Oct 21
Prices Rising as New Dangers Point to Hard Assets - 19th Oct 21
It’s not just Copper; GYX indicated cyclical the whole time - 19th Oct 21
Chinese Tech Stocks CCP Paranoia, VIES - Variable Interest Entities - 19th Oct 21
Inflation Peaked Again, Right? - 19th Oct 21
Gold Stocks Bouncing Hard - 19th Oct 21
Stock Market New Intermediate Bottom Forming? - 19th Oct 21
Beware, Gold Bulls — That’s the Beginning of the End - 18th Oct 21
Gold Price Flag Suggests A Big Rally May Start Soon - 18th Oct 21
Inflation Or Deflation – End Result Is Still Depression - 18th Oct 21
A.I. Breakthrough Could Disrupt the $11 Trillion Medical Sector - 18th Oct 21
US Economy and Stock Market Addicted to Deficit Spending - 17th Oct 21
The Gold Price And Inflation - 17th Oct 21
Went Long the Crude Oil? Beware of the Headwinds Ahead… - 17th Oct 21
Watch These Next-gen Cloud Computing Stocks - 17th Oct 21
Overclockers UK Custom Built PC 1 YEAR Use Review Verdict - Does it Still Work? - 16th Oct 21
Altonville Mine Tours Maze at Alton Towers Scarefest 2021 - 16th Oct 21
How to Protect Your Self From a Stock Market CRASH / Bear Market? - 14th Oct 21
The Only way to Crush Inflation (not stocks) - 14th Oct 21
Why "Losses Are the Norm" in the Stock Market - 14th Oct 21
Sub Species Castle Maze at Alton Towers Scarefest 2021 - 14th Oct 21
Which Wallet is Best for Storing NFTs? - 14th Oct 21
Ailing UK Pound Has Global Effects - 14th Oct 21
How to Get 6 Years Life Out of Your Overclocked PC System, Optimum GPU, CPU and MB Performance - 13th Oct 21
The Demand Shock of 2022 - 12th Oct 21
4 Reasons Why NFTs Could Be The Future - 12th Oct 21
Crimex Silver: Murder Most Foul - 12th Oct 21
Bitcoin Rockets In Preparation For Liftoff To $100,000 - 12th Oct 21
INTEL Tech Stock to the MOON! INTC 2000 vs 2021 Market Bubble WARNING - 11th Oct 21
AI Stocks Portfolio Buying and Selling Levels Going Into Market Correction - 11th Oct 21
Stock Market Wall of Worry Meets NFPs - 11th Oct 21
Stock Market Intermediate Correction Continues - 11th Oct 21
China / US Stock Markets Divergence - 10th Oct 21
Can US Save Taiwan From China? Taiwan Strait Naval Battle - PLA vs 7th Fleet War Game Simulation - 10th Oct 21
Gold Price Outlook: The Inflation Chasm Between Europe and the US - 10th Oct 21
US Real Estate ETFs React To Rising Housing Market Mortgage Interest Rates - 10th Oct 21
US China War over Taiwan Simulation 2021, Invasion Forecast - Who Will Win? - 9th Oct 21
When Will the Fed Taper? - 9th Oct 21
Dancing with Ghouls and Ghosts at Alton Towers Scarefest 2021 - 9th Oct 21
Stock Market FOMO Going into Crash Season - 8th Oct 21
Scan Computers - Custom Build PC 6 Months Later, Reliability, Issues, Quality of Tech Support Review - 8th Oct 21
Gold and Silver: Your Financial Main Battle Tanks - 8th Oct 21
How to handle the “Twin Crises” Evergrande and Debt Ceiling Threatening Stocks - 8th Oct 21
Why a Peak in US Home Prices May Be Approaching - 8th Oct 21
Alton Towers Scarefest is BACK! Post Pandemic Frights Begin, What it's Like to Enter Scarefest 2021 - 8th Oct 21
AJ Bell vs II Interactive Investor - Which Platform is Best for Buying US FAANG Stocks UK Investing - 7th Oct 21
Gold: Evergrande Investors' Savior - 7th Oct 21
Here's What Really Sets Interest Rates (Not Central Banks) - 7th Oct 21

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

Nuclear Power Dirty Bomb 

Politics / Nuclear Power Oct 28, 2013 - 08:55 AM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop

Politics

THE 100-YEAR CURSE
Within the next 15 – 20 years as many as 100 industry standard Westinghouse-type 900 MW PWR pressurized water reactors, concentrated in the "old nuclear' countries will have to be decommissioned, dismantled and their sites made safe - unless political deciders maintain the sinister farce of rubber stamping reactor operating lifetime extensions. The decontamination process could take as long as 100 years. In several countries, especially Germany, Switzerland and probably Japan the dangerous game of politically-decided reactor life extensions – to push back the date of final decommissioning - has already ended or is ending.


But when it does end, nuclear debt will go into overdrive from its already extreme high setting. Nuclear power is capital intensive, lives on subsidies, thrives on false hopes and dies in debt.

Putting a figure on how much the nuclear "decomm" story will cost and how long it will take is in fact impossible - and is signalled by the tell-tale anticipative action of nuclear friendly governments. One stark example is the UK, which now sets decomm as an activity that will only need to start at a generous, or foolhardy 30 or 40 years after the reactor was powered down and removed from the national power grid. Until then, the reactor can sit on the horizon as a contribution to national culture or something “in perfect safety of course”. Decomm periods could or might therefore be 100 years.

DECOMMISSIONING SAGAS
As already noted above, there are no rules, standards and best practice in decommissioning, dismantling and “making safe” or “securing” the former sites of reactors. So there is no standard cost for getting rid of reactors. It is a case-by-case process. This alone prods the highly political decision to set a “delay” between reactor shut down, and decommissioning which as noted above, in the extreme UK case is now set at 30-40 years.
 
Before the final shut down, of course, reactor operating life extensions can squeeze some more power out of the reactor – and further delay the moment when it has to be decommissioned. Only idiots can pretend this does not expose the reactor to increased risks of accidents. Ask yourselves if you prefer to fly in a 40-year-old airplane, or a new one.

Real-life decomm sagas, as distinct from emergency dismantling following a serious or catastrophic accident as in the case of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima are always – always – a tale of vastly underestimated initial costs and timelines for decomm, followed by massive cost overruns and time overruns. Plenty of examples concern the now-quarter-century old projects, and longer, where initial cost estimates have been exceeded by actual spending by 5 or 10 times, and the decomm project's time for completion multiplied by 3. And today the projects are not yet fully completed!

There are always excuses, to be sure. Several examples are available from France, which due to its main electric power producer, EDF, being politically “conferred” the operation of all the country's 63 formerly nationalized nuclear reactors, produces approximately 84% nuclear-origin electricity. Dating from pre-nationalization, and before the political decision to only build PWRs, state experimentation with reactors included several types.

One was the CANDU-type heavy water reactor able to use cheaper, less enriched uranium, of which one semi-experimental, partly-commercial version was built in France. Of 70 MW power, the Brennilis reactor, about 60 kms from Brest was built between 1962 and 1967. It was then operated until complete removal from service in 1985. Since then it has been “under decommissioning”, and present-day (late 2013) official statements suggest its site could be finally decontaminated and made safe by or before 2017. To be sure, previous announcements of a completion date included 2005, 2012 and 2014. Initial decomm cost and time estimates, made in 1985 by the official PEON (nuclear electric power commission) suggested the total cost would be the equivalent, in euros, of about 20 – 25 million euros and the decomm could be completed in 10 years.

Spending to date is officially said to be about 500 million euros. No final cost figure is given, but EDF and government sources presently suggest “about 700 million euros”. The cost overrun is therefore at least 27-fold.

This concerned one very small reactor. Unfortunately for nuclear apologists or “nuclear buffs” there are no or few economies of scale. Decomm of a big reactor costs more than decomm of a small reactor, due to factors including the amount of “nuclear plumbing”, or reactor power and fuel circuits, and total radiological inventory or quantity of highly radioactive materials present in the reactor when decomm started. For the Brennilis reactor, of 70 MW, simply emptying the “nuclear plumbing” took 7 years. The decision to dismantle the fuel circuits was itself “controversial” and imposed by the UN's IAEA against French government wishes – because of costs. The French government wanted to simply leave the Brennilis reactor on the horizon for “about 40 years”, and then start dismantling. If that option had been chosen, the total decomm period would likely have been 50 – 75 years, or more. 

Build a reactor in 1962. Stop using it in 1985. Finally remove it about 2055. Spend 700 million euros doing so. This 70 MW reactor officially produced a total of 6.235 billion kWh in its lifetime, so the per-kWh cost of its “rather expensive” nuclear power can be calculated, of course excluding its initial building costs and operating costs throughout its lifetime.

As with other reactors, Brennilis decomm options also included the jargon terms “safestore” or fully enclosing the site and delaying full decomm for an arbitrary but long period, and “sarcophage” decomm, or “entombment”, that is building a dome over the entire reactor assembly, and its spent fuel, then possibly covering that dome or structure with an earth berm up to 30 – 40 metres thick. The laborious and extreme high-cost attempts to build the “definitive sarcophage” at the Chernobyl site have continued on and off for 27 years with total spending to date in the region of 1.5 – 2.5 billion euros, on top of and excluding several-hundred-billion euros spent on emergency action following the 1986 disaster, and a highly disputed death toll figure for fatalities involved.

Creating a landscaped artificial hill, using earth berms on top of the definitive or final sarcophage, if or when it can be financed and finished, looks marvellous in nuclear brochures and publicity cartoons but is science-fiction - due to extreme costs. In the Brennilis case, building a sarcophage over this toy-sized reactor was rejected as far too expensive, and the theoretical option of sarcophage-plus-landscaping was made even less possible, due to geological and water table constraints.

Concerning the 10-only civil power reactors partly-decommissioned to date in the USA, current estimates of full and definitive decomm costs are usually given as a cost-per-kilowatt of previous power output. These estimates are generally in the range $250-$500 per kilowatt, implying total costs at an extremely and unrealistically low total of around $0.4 billion for each industry standard 900 MW reactor. In the Russian case, as we know, “decommissioning” features pure and simple dumping of highly radioactive trash and debris in the ocean. Presumably Russians like eating radioactive fish.

ECONOMIC DISASTER
The keyword "disaster" suffers from serial overuse, for example the loss of Michael Jackson is a "disaster" for world culture, but nuclear disaster has a real and known meaning. In the case of Chernobyl and Fukushina we can unfortunately be sure that total costs have already run into the region of 400 billion dollars for Chernobyl, and at mimimum will run at more than 250 billion dollars for Fukushima over the next 30 years. Nuclear apologists make a point of never adding these costs.

At a meeting in Boston at the Maine statehouse, October 9, a panel of nuclear experts argued that the entire 104-reactor fleet of the USA should be shut down and decommissioned “as soon as possible”. The panel was headed by former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Gregory Jaczko, and included Peter Bradford, an NRC commissioner during the Three Mile Island accident; nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen; and former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan. While the NRC argues the chance of accidents causing reactor meltdown are “one in a million”, the problem is they can happen tomorrow – not in a million years of combined reactor fleet operating time – but the economic and financial impossibility of shutting down civil reactor fleets is the real barrier.

Because of costs, the de facto “solution” is firstly to extend reactor operating lifetimes, then partly decommission and dismantle reactors when they are taken out of service, delaying the decontamination of nuclear sites, and pushing all costs into the future. Unfortunately and until the reactors are made safe, they by definition pose almost open-ended risks. These extend from “simple” accidents and technical malfunction, to operator errors, and to the risk of them becoming giant Dirty Bomb targets in civil war, international war, or terror attacks. Even the most extreme non-nuclear industrial risks, notably at “Seveso or Bhopal type” chemical facilities, are pale by comparison.

RECYCLE, REUSE AND DEFEND THE ECONOMY
Nuclear waste business, as we know, is not business friendly and leads to the very basic reflex of simply dumping a considerable and growing part of the world's unmanageable nuclear wastes from the current world fleet of around 436 operating civil reactors (depending on how many Japanese reactors are brought back into service). Proliferation risks are deliberately restricted to only conventional explosive nuclear weapons and their radioactive materials - totally ignoring both Depleted Uranium weapons using "recycled" nuclear wastes, and the potential future Dirty Bomb targets of active and “partly decommissioned” reactors lurking on the horizon. These with almost no possible doubt will be prime targets in coming civil wars and international wars. These nuclear war options are above all cheap, and of course very dirty.

Since the 1991 Gulf War 1 against Iraq, the war against Afghanistan starting in 2001, and the second war against Iraq of 2003 at least 2500 tons of Depleted Uranium weapons have been used by the US, UK and France in these “delightfully far away” over the horizon wars against lesser races and nations. Depleted Uranium ordnance, to date has caused a conservatively estimated 10 000 cancer deaths, and as many as 50 000 still-living cancer victims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This has easily calculated economic consequences. When this concerns free market white democrat middle class consumers, the same types of cancers are costed at roughly $ 40 000 for a cancer death and $ 25 000-per-year for surviving cancer sufferers.

The "cute idea" of recycling nuclear wastes as DU ordnance has a cosy market-friendly smell, to some, but the economic damage that these filthy weapons generate smells a lot worse. Those who profit from misery and death will finally pay. The same weapons can be turned around and used on them.

LOSS AVOIDANCE IS THE ONLY SOLUTION
Turning off the nuclear tap will soon become the only solution. Civil nuclear power plant growth and  proliferation has already cancelled in several countries, including Germany, Japan and Switzerland, and is likely to be placed on hold, because of nuclear debt and the sheer un-economic nature of nuclear power, in other countries. Of course we can be sure that China and India will come very late to the party and may need the “tweak” of one or more worst-case reactor meltdowns to make them move.

We can however be sure that Nuclear Nirvana's murky underside of a Pandora's Box of evils will soon cause a sea shift in ruling elite thinking.

Options exist for the rapid removal of nuclear power from the scene. Since 2008, in more than a half of OECD countries exposed to the realities of the sovereign debt crisis, electricity consumption has fallen, sometimes by double-digit amounts in 3 years. The need for nuclear power is cut by this real world trend. To be sure there are also long-term and rising nuclear debts due to accumulated wastes and to the near-term future crisis of reactor decommissioning - which in a sane world would only hasten the total abandonment of this failed option for supplying "cheap, clean and safe" power.

The options are better known than ever. The pathology of "we didnt know" has worn awfully thin after the Fukushima disaster. The same applies to Depleted Uranium weapons, nicely reserved for expert commentators to pontificate about - but which cause real world cancers and economic loss every day in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The choices and options are on the table for those who want to admit them. Unfortunately our current political decider elite is congenitally unable to admit them. Soldiering along and muddling through with the deadly, high cost option of nuclear power will continue - but not for long. As ever, one disaster is worth a lot more than a million words.

By Andrew McKillop

Contact: xtran9@gmail.com

Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2013 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

Andrew McKillop Archive

© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in