Pandora’s Promise: Nuclear Power’s Trek From Too Cheap To Meter To Too Costly To Matter Much

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"Pandora’s Promise: Nuclear Power’s Trek From Too Cheap To Meter To Too Costly To Matter Much"

You may be wondering if you should see the new pro-nuke movie, “Pandora’s Promise.” I think it’s safe to say that the answer is a resounding “no.”

Indeed, the most stunning thing I’ve read about the movie comes from someone who is generally positive about it, NY Times blogger Andy Revkin:

The film also avoids discussing the high costs and logistical and policy hurdles to adding substantially to the country’s, or world’s, existing fleets of operating nuclear plants. The scale and costs required to cut into coal use using any technology — nuclear, wind, solar or otherwise — is incredibly daunting.

Huh? Doing a movie about nuclear power without discussing the high costs, would be like doing a movie comparing the US healthcare system to that of other countries … without discussing the high costs!!!

Climate Progress has published dozens of posts about nuclear power — including two major reports (see here and here). I think nuclear power might provide as much as 5% to 10% of the “solution” to global warming.

But in virtually all of our pieces cost is a major — if not the major — focus. That’s because it is the failure of the industry to make their product affordable — not the environmental community’s supposedly unwarranted fears of radiation — that has knee-capped the industry (see here and below).

Indeed, while solar power and wind power continue to march down the experience curve to ever lower costs, nuclear power appears headed in the opposite direction.

Nuclear power has a negative learning curve:

Average and min/max reactor construction costs per year of completion date for US and France versus cumulative capacity completed.

Amazingly, in the past few few years utilities have told state regulators that the cost of new nuclear plants is in the $5,500 to $8,100 per kilowatt range (see Nuclear power: The price is not right and Exclusive analysis: The staggering cost of new nuclear power).

Pandora’s original promise was “too cheap to meter.” It is a broken promise.

So Pandora’s Promise would appear to be largely irrelevant to those interested in the climate debate. But is it something a CP reader should see anyway?

Like Dave Roberts at Grist, I’m not writing a movie review. Since my review copy hasn’t arrived yet, let’s treat it like any other movie and look at the big name reviewers at the NY Times and WashPost and see what the target audience thinks of it.

NY Times reviewer Manohla Dargis writes:

‘Pandora’s Promise’ is as stacked as advocate movies get…. In brief — or so the movie’s one-sided reasoning goes — everything that anti-nuclear energy activists and skeptics have thought about the issue is wrong….

But you need to make an argument. A parade of like-minded nuclear-power advocates who assure us that everything will be all right just doesn’t cut it.

Ouch! Michael O’Sullivan, reviewer for my “hometown” newspaper, the Washington Post, gives the movie 2 and 1/2 stars out of 4 — a “good” rating — noting:

Despite its pro-nuke slant, environmentalists are the film’s intended audience. After all, as the film points out, most pro-business Republicans are already in love with the idea of more nuclear power plants, and need no convincing.

So I guess Climate Progress readers are the film’s intended audience. O’Sullivan continues:

But left-leaning supporters of green energy aren’t just the film’s target demo. They’re also its main subjects. Gwyneth Cravens, Mark Lynas, Michael Shellenberger and other respected environmental activists, authors and experts appear throughout the film, explaining why they have recently started to reconsider their former staunch opposition to nuclear power.

Stop the presses! I guess Climate Progress readers — and environmentalists in general — are not the film’s intended audience after all. You have to look pretty hard to find many respected environmental activists who consider Shellenberger one of their own.

As CP readers know, Shellenberger has dedicated himself to spreading disinformation about Gore, Congressional leaders, Waxman and Markey, leading climate scientists, Al Gore again, the entire environmental community and anyone else trying to end our status quo energy policies, including me. Heck he even went after Rachel Carson!

Now this wouldn’t matter if this movie were just being sold as “watch an objective look at nuclear power from all sides.” But it is being sold as “watch environmentalists who have rethought their position on nukes.” That makes it “contrarian,” which the MSM, if no one else, usually eats up.

But the media — at least the informed media — isn’t fooled. As Mark Hertsgaard explains in the Nation, the environmentalists in the film are generally either sheep in wolves’ clothing or sui generis:

The five converts featured in Pandora’s Promise speak for themselves as individuals; they don’t represent large environmental organizations—or small ones, for that matter. Gwyneth Cravens and Richard Rhodes don’t even appear to have track records as activists; Cravens is a fiction writer. Stewart Brand helped found the Whole Earth Catalog, but that was over forty years ago; since then, he’s spent much of his time as a consultant to corporations, including some in the energy sector. Shellenberger is a PR man who, as he says in the film, used to consult for environmental groups but no longer does.

The only bona fide activist is Lynas….

So then it’s only fair to ask what the supposed intended audience thinks of the movie.

Here’s nuclear physicist, Dr. Edwin Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, skewer the movie:

“By oversimplifying the issues, trivializing opposing viewpoints and mocking those who express them, and selectively presenting information in a misleading way, it serves more to obfuscate than to illuminate. As such, it adds little of value to the substantive debate about the merits of various energy sources in a carbon-constrained world.”

Then we have the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

In the end, by dismissing the protestors and failing to engage them in significant debate about the pros and cons of nuclear energy, the film undermined its own message.

Dave Roberts has many more such reviews in his column. Hertsgaard debunks several “myths the film peddles” here.

You get the point. The movie appears to treat its target audience rather poorly.

Such is not the key to box office magic.

My guess is the movie will prove radioactive, a nuclear bomb, as it were.

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57 Responses to Pandora’s Promise: Nuclear Power’s Trek From Too Cheap To Meter To Too Costly To Matter Much

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Climate Progress readers know all about nuclear, and my old friend Gene Barasch (PhD in nuclear engineering) educated me further. Maybe it’s time to address Revkin’s notion that solar and wind deployment are “super wicked” challenges, whatever the hell that means. Or here, where he says “The scale and cost required to cut into coal use using any technology, nuclear, wind, solar, or any technology- is (sic)incredibly daunting”.

    Revkin and The Times are doing enormous damage here. These statements mirror those from Rogers of Duke or Tillerson of Exxon. They are saying that clean energy is fine in about 2050, but it’s too “incredibly daunting” in the meantime.

    Bullshit. The main things standing in the way of clean energy deployment are fat subsidies to fossil fuels, especially in the form of zero cost for pollution and GHG emissions. Carney and Obama tell us even a modest carbon fee is “off the table”. When clean energy gets a foothold, it meets furious opposition, even out here in California in the form of onerous entitlement and development costs for solar farms.

    Obama not only failed to lead, he set a trap. Salazar and Reid announced clean energy fast tracking in 2009, soon followed by multimillion dollar delays and endless legal challenges. Obama and Salazar watched passively.

    Maybe these are the super wicked challenges Revkin is referring to. If so, he plays for the other team.

  2. M Tucker says:

    It is not a fair and balanced look at nuclear power. It is an advocate film. It could easily be seen as simply an advertisement for nuclear power. According to Robert Stone, the director, the cost should be ignored because it is a zero CO2 energy source. On NPR last Friday Stone expressed his deep sorrow that San Onofre would be closing. Even at the exorbitant cost of at least 1.2 billion dollars to get it up and running again. Unless they can get the costs down I will continue to oppose nuclear power.

    But if the director really wanted to engage the anti-climate change audience he might have included James Hansen in his group of pro-nuclear converts.

  3. I think the argument of nuclear being the ‘only alternative’ to fossil fuels is starting to wear quite thin. The renewables are cheaper now. Plus they don’t pack the risk of a Chernobyl or Fukushima every decade or two.

    And yes, despite contrarian argument, we can power heavy industry on renewables…

  4. Dave S. Nottear says:

    Planet of the Zombie Industrial Apes.

    Synopsis: the naked ape done crippled itself so bad it decided it has to kill the planet to save it.

    Store all nuclear waste in cities in towns based on the rate of nuclear heroin they use. Let the adult-sized children pay ALL of the cost.

    stupid, mentally-defective parasitic naked apes.

  5. Martin V says:

    I grew up wearing the “Atomkraft – Nein Danke!” button. But isn’t there some hoopla about Thorium reactors these days? China and India seem to see big promise there.
    Even Japan, after the Tsunami, investigates them as a possible replacement.
    Coincidentally, comment sections on nuclear/renewables always have someone piping up about Thorium. I’d appreciate Dr. Romm’s view on it some time.

  6. SecularAnimist says:

    Dr. Lyman from UCS aptly concisely describes pretty much all the pro-nuclear advocacy I have seen: “oversimplifying the issues, trivializing opposing viewpoints and mocking those who express them, and selectively presenting information in a misleading way”.

    And on the merits, the title of Joe’s article gets right to the point: “too costly to matter much”.

    That’s why I don’t waste much time or energy “debating” with fans of nuclear power: it has simply become irrelevant.

  7. Raul M. says:

    Maybe they could plan for a telescoping cooling water inlet so that rising sea levels wouldn’t cause so many shutdowns. telescoping cooling water inlets might be a big improvement for river based systems too as flooding might not be such a reason for shutdown. And if they can figure out how to do fast slow ups where cooling water wasn’t needed they could maybe reconfigure existing plants. Oh money might really be an issue though.

  8. While Climate Progress has always kept the cost issue in the forefront of any discussion, and pro nuclear agitators try to minimize it, there are other aspects to this discussion that are also left out of most conversations. I am particularly concerned that the ant-nuclear activists focus on the issues of plant safety, reminding us of Chernobyl and Fukushima, they ignore the safety issues from everything that happens before the fuel gets to the plants. There is a lot of danger from the mining / transportation process even before the uranium is concentrate. If one does not believe this, you have only to look at the history of Navajo Women and the way that groundwater was contaminated. It ties directly to a significant increase in breast cancer. Anyone who advocates for nuclear power needs to be willing to have the female members of their family live in close proximity to the mining operations.

    And, responsible mining, if there is such a thing, would make nuclear even more costly.

  9. Dan Miller says:

    I met one of the producers of the film and her point of view was that government won’t do anything so the only solution to climate change is technological breakthroughs that result in very low cost clean energy that beats fossil fuels in the marketplace. I’m not sure how nuclear, with its high costs, fits that approach.

    My own opinion is that nuclear is CO2-free so its OK. If you think about it, a nuclear power plant is probably about 1000 times safer than a coal plant both in the short term (health impacts from mercury, etc.) and long term (estimated deaths due to climate disruption vs. a meltdown). But I do think we should spend our money where it will do the most good and putting a rising price on carbon will let the markets sort that out. Still, a nuke plant is probably cheaper than a coal plant when you factor in all costs, including climate change (but not cheaper than wind and solar).

  10. Dave S. Nottear says:


    What time is it?

    Who do you trust?

    How long do you think our civilization is going to remain civilized?

    Do you think Homeland Security is up to the task?

    How about each house-on-grid gets a lead casket and an annual delivery of nuclear waste for them to store.

  11. onyerlefty says:

    I’m a big fan on nearly every other topic Joe, but I admit I find this review of other cherry-picked reviews which matches your preconceptions extremely disappointing. I think once you see the film you’ll find there’s very little that’s debatable about it.

    – Renewables have not a chance of addressing global power needs in the next century. The ongoing German Energiewende disaster, which is increasing the use of coal and Germany’s carbon intensity, is proof.

    – I have no idea where your graph comes from, but the fact is that the levelized cost of nuclear power is around $.04/kwh – about one-third cheaper than solar and twice as cheap as offshore wind – and will be, through 2018. Complain to the DOE if you like.

    – Really? The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists? Please…Kennette Benedict has no science background whatsoever – she comes from law enforcement and “organizational planning”, whatever that is. I see at least antinuclear UCS has a scientist for a chairman now, but apparently Ed Lyman thinks the residents of Vermont suck the clay of the Connecticut River for breakfast. Why else would a few liters of tritium buried underground matter to anyone who understands radioactivity? Like Arnie Gunderson and Helen Caldicott, these people make a living and a reputation by feeding on the fear of the masses.

    We need real solutions, and nuclear is the only source of reliable power generation which has a chance of making a difference in time.

  12. onyerlefty says:

    Dave, if you had seen the movie you’d know that those lead caskets don’t shed one microsievert of radiation. And since the annual power needs for my family would result in waste about the size of a cigarette lighter, I’d be more than happy to find space for it.

  13. David B. Benson says:

    I disagree with the title of this thread. One readily finds that there are about 70 new nuclear power plants (NPPs) under construction around the world. Three of those are in the United States of America. So somehow the planners in quite a few countries all cranked the numbers to determine that one or more NPPs were required.

    Indeed, for reliable, on demand, low carbon electricity NPPs are the least expensive solution according to my calculations. That does not exclude having some solar PV when it becomes inexpensive enough (where it already is in some settings). However, lacking a sufficiently inexpensive storage medium, I currently do not see how wind can be more than a boutique solution for a totally low carbon grid. [What happens now in the USA is that wherever wind goes in natgas burners are sure to follow; that is not low carbon.]

    France already provides a model for a mostly NPP based grid; the electricity rates in France are the lowest in Europe.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Revkin is just a wannabe Lomborg, in my opinion.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Nuclear is only pushed to derail or delay real renewables. It is a stalking horse for fossil fuels, and the elite control both industries, so there is total congruence of self-interest.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Dr Lyman’s statement is plagiarism, I tell you. That is a direct steal from News Corpse’s ‘Mission Statement’.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The only numbers ‘cranked’ were those in the overseas, tax haven, bank accounts of the suborned officials who decided to piss billions up against the wall to obtain the most expensive and most potentially dangerous energy source of all.

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Once the name ‘Mark Lynas’ slithers into view, I adopt my ‘I have just bitten into something sour’ face. His journey Rightwards to become an apologist for nuclear, and for GE crops (plus some really nasty smearing of organic farmers) has, in my opinion, been a text-book sell-out, like so very many others.

  19. Dave S. Nottear says:

    “That’s why I don’t waste much time or energy “debating” with fans of nuclear power: it has simply become irrelevant.

    Yes. I think I am just proving your point.

    Their appetites place very strict limits on their ability to think.

  20. Yes! And many of the same corporations that push nuclear power are heavily invested in the U.S. media — GE for example.

  21. Yes. The same bunch that gave us the recent disaster in Japan — the same GE I referred to above among them.

  22. Yes again. And he’s a voluntary minion of Steward Brand’s, whose corporate bona fides are renowned.

    I read an article in the British press about how Lynas is feeling blue because no one from his old environmentalist crowd hangs with him anymore. Well, better green than blue, Mark.

  23. What’s missing from all these comments about the cost and levelized cost of nuclear and renewables — including Joes comments — is any discussion of the externalized costs of nuclear. Add those in and this most expensive way of boiling water is dead in the water.

  24. SecularAnimist says:

    As usual, the few nuclear proponents posting here simply replace the actual facts presented in the article with their own “calculations”, unsupported claims, and false statements disparaging renewable energy.

    That is precisely why it is an utter waste of time to “debate” with nuclear advocates.

  25. Joe, you are right that nuclear power costs iver $5/watt in Geogia are too high. But that same AP1000 is being completed in China for only $2/watt. We need to cut unnecessary regulatory costs and delay costs. Coal plant costs are about $2.40/watt; we need clean power plants that can economically displace coal, worldwide. New designs such as the liquid fluoride thorium reactor may be the innovation that drops the costs.

  26. Martin Vermeer says:

    Huh? Following your link I find two tables, both giving $0.1084/kWh. I must be missing something

  27. SecularAnimist says:

    Robert Hargraves wrote: “We need to cut unnecessary regulatory costs and delay costs.”

    With all due respect, that’s little more than a bumper sticker slogan.

    If you wish to make a substantive argument, please say specifically which nuclear regulatory “costs and delays” are “unnecessary”, and why.

    Because there is overwhelming evidence that far from being over-regulated, the US nuclear industry is insufficiently and inadequately regulated, and that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission consistently puts the economic interests of the nuclear industry ahead of public safety.

  28. SecularAnimist says:

    onyerlefty wrote: “The ongoing German Energiewende disaster, which is increasing the use of coal and Germany’s carbon intensity, is proof.”

    That’s a blatant falsehood. The fact that you have posted it here on multiple occasions even after being shown that it is false, is proof of something, alright.

  29. SecularAnimist says:

    David B. Benson wrote: “France already provides a model for a mostly NPP based grid; the electricity rates in France are the lowest in Europe.”

    If you are looking for a “model”, the USA, not France, operates the most nuclear power plants and produces the most nuclear-generated electricity of any nation on Earth.

    To get 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear, as France does, the USA would need to build several hundred more nuclear power plants — more than currently exist in the whole world! — something that no nation on Earth has ever considered doing, let alone attempted.

    As for electricity rates in Europe, Reuters reported in April that “Renewable subsidies have caused German solar power glut … Low German wholesale prices make it attractive for exports … Germany’s neighbours enjoy cheap imported power subsidised by Berlin’s green energy policy and paid for by German households, analysts say … But Germans themselves do not see lower prices, which are restricted to the wholesale market – in fact the opposite. Instead it is their neighbours whose bills benefit thanks to cheap imports from Germany.”

    And in January, Bloomberg reported that “Power for 2014 delivery in Germany and France dropped to records as rising solar output is expected to cut demand for other electricity sources … German power, a European benchmark, fell as much as 1.5 percent … The equivalent French contract declined 0.3 percent … Electricity for Germany next year lost 65 cents to 43.30 euros ($57.93) a megawatt-hour, its biggest decline since March 6 … The French equivalent lost 15 cents to 46.20 euros … As much as 18 percent of electricity demand may be replaced by solar panels not connected to Germany’s grid, reducing demand for other sources by 6 to 10 percent by 2020 … The unsubsidized solar growth should drive wholesale power prices further down.”

  30. onyerlefty says:

    @Martin, $.04/kwh is a typical cost to consumer for nuclear. The DOE website compares levelized cost of generation (including construction, subsidies, and decommissioning; see last column).


    Wind 86.0
    Nuclear 108.4
    Solar PV 144.3
    Wind (offshore) 221.5
    Solar thermal (utility) 261.5

  31. onyerlefty says:

    Philip, is the GE you’re referring to related to the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer?

  32. onyerlefty says:

    @SecularAnimist, there has yet to be one confirmed death from radiation resulting from nuclear power in the U.S. That’s a spectacular safety achievement, and one that’s in spite of – not the result of – onerous regulations which distract from important issues we confront as society in terms of getting a handle on carbon.

    For comparison, coal plants kill about 13,000 Americans every year. Where’s the outrage?

  33. Martin Vermeer says:

    > $.04/kwh is a typical cost to consumer for nuclear.

    How can this be less than the cost of generation (and what’s your source)? We’re talking about capitalism here, not philantropy, right?

  34. Martin Vermeer says:

    @onyerlefty, show me a single U.S. (or other) death certificate that says “tobacco smoking”.

  35. Ben Heard says:

    You have not seen the movie. You have gone out of your way to dissuade others from doing so by picking choice lines from choice reviews and belittle some of the people involved.

    Joe, you protest far too much. Quite clearly the slew of positive reviews and massive talk this film has generated has you concerned that it might present a serious and compelling challenge to the way some people think about nuclear power.

    Shame of you for seeking to discourage people from even seeing it, when you have not even seen it yourself.

    These are low tactics. If the validity of your point of view relies on others not hearing from people who think differently to yourself, then it is fragile indeed.

  36. quokka says:

    You want some supportable facts, then try this for starters. The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) assesses the Levelized Costs of Electricity (LCOE) generation technologies for new build (2012) as:

    Unabated Gas (CCGT) 80 p/kWh
    First of a Kind Nuclear 81 p/kWh
    On shore wind (all UK) 93 p/kWh
    On shore wind (England and Wales) 103 p/kWh
    Off shore wind (R2) 118 p/kWh
    Off shore wind (R3) 132 p/kWh
    Utility scale PV 169 p/kWh

    The nuclear estimate includes cost of spent fuel management and decommissioning.

    Furthermore, nuclear is projected to retain it’s cost advantage for the foreseeable future.

    Source: DECC – “Electricity Generating Costs”

    Perhaps even more importantly, the UK Climate Change Committee makes it’s assessment that a low emission electricity supply for the UK by 2030 (<= 50 g CO2/kWh) in not technically feasible without substantial new nuclear build.

    Source: UK Committee on Climate Change – The Renewable Energy Review.

    Those truly concerned about climate change will expand their universe of facts further than anti-nuclear blog posts.

  37. polymerase says:

    If nuclear power is so hopelessly expensive that it will never be widely implemented, then why are you all spending so much time attacking it? Let’s all support a carbon tax and let the market figure it out.

    Every day that I drive to my job (to work on renewable energy development), I see a nuclear power plant in the distance, which I would much rather see than a coal or natural gas plant.

    Of course there are problems with nuclear power. But they are (even the disasters) trivial in scale when compared to the massive die-off of poor people in 3rd-world countries that will result from climate change if we don’t start reducing GHG emissions immediately.

    What depresses me is how environmentalists on the left, above all else, want to cling to the beliefs that bind them to their tribe, rather than keeping an open mind and looking at the data, as James Hansen has done:

    Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power

  38. onyerlefty says:

    @SecularAnimist, there are many sources which support the fact the Energiewende has been an abject environmental failure:

    Nuclear down, CO2 up in Japan, Germany

    Merkel’s Green Shift Forces Germany to Burn More Coal

    Germany’s clean energy drive fails to curb dirty brown coal

    Meanwhile, Germany continues to build new coal plants and (hypocritically) import nuclear energy from France, Poland, and Austria to make up for the woefully inadequate and disppointing performance of wind and solar power.

  39. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Quoting the English bureaucracy, which operates a revolving-door system with Big Business, in true neo-liberal fashion, under the most far Right and anti-Green UK regime ever, at least draws appreciation for your chutzpah and contempt for our intelligence. Once more bureaucrats move to renewable energy companies for employment, rather than the current energy overlords, I’ll bet that the tune will change. But we haven’t got that much time left.

  40. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    We must cut ‘unnecessary regulatory costs’ ie safety and decommissioning costs (dump them on the public), insurance difficulties (we need Government guarantees of indemnity for the colossal costs of accidents), oh, and that unnecessary farrago, waste disposal. Landfill should suffice, preferably in some far off land. But, of course, Government subsidies must remain, to ‘incentivise’ the industry, and get their ‘animal spirits’ flowing. And, thanks to good old ‘Market Magic’, nothing could possibly go wrong.

  41. quokka says:

    There are sources other than your “opinion” for estimates of the external costs of nuclear power. You could start with the ExternE study from the European Commission of the externalities of energy production. This is a very large body of work with very detailed methodology. The report on nuclear power alone is 337 pages long.

    The reported figures are, for the full nuclear fuel cycle, 0.0025 EUR/kWh with no discount rate and 0.0001 EUR/kWh and 0.00005 EUR/kWh with discount rates of 3% and 10% respectively.

    These are very, very small compared to external costs of coal and other fossil fuels.

  42. Rod Adams says:


    GE is a company with an annual revenue of more than $150 billion. Approximately $1 billion of that comes from selling nuclear related products and services.

    GE is far more heavily dependent on revenue from natural gas fired combustion turbines, wind turbines, CFL, and “smart grid” technologies.

    I think you ought to check your premises.

  43. Rod Adams says:

    @Martin Vermeer

    The $0.108 number is a prediction of future costs for an assumed technology. It is not a reflection of actual costs for the plants that have been built and are operating today.

    It is a guess based on drawing lines anchored from recent experience, which, in the case of completing new nuclear plants in the United States is non-existent.

    It will be far more instructive when we are able to provide a computed levelized cost of power from the new AP1000 reactors that are being constructed in China. They should start operating within a few years.

    My humble prediction is that their cost experience will more closely resemble that achieved in France before they changed their design and jumped off of the learning curve achieved from 1969-1980. Look at Joe’s graph more closely and you might see what I mean.

    There is no doubt that nuclear power in the United States costs far more than it should and that there is plenty of blame to pass around, starting with the people inside the “industry” who make more money by spending more capital, especially if they can blame the federal regulators for the expense.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  44. Martin Vermeer says:

    > First of a Kind Nuclear 81 p/kWh

    EDF wants more

  45. A lot of uranium is coming from solution mining and recovery from phosphate processing.

    To put your female relatives near a uranium mine, you’d have to travel to someplace like Cigar Lake.  Canada isn’t known for lax environmental standards, and neither is Australia. The biggest producers are countries like Kazakhstan. Would you tell the Kazakhs what they are and are not allowed to do? Isn’t that imperialism?

  46. Joris van Dorp says:

    You could add another major new problem for the chaotic and failing “energiewende”.

    “For the European Commission and for Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia, Oettinger said during a dinner event, it is clear that price concessions for energy-intensive companies in Germany amount to an inadmissible subsidy. In the best-case scenario, he said, the Commission would ban such subsidies. But, he added, the worst case could see Brussels demanding that such companies pay back the money they had saved as a result of the discounts they have received.”

    The energiewende is a disaster. Anyone who still tries to peddle it as an ‘example’ of ‘how to do renewable energy’ is living on another planet.

    I thank all the commenters in this thread who take the time to criticize this post of Mr. Romm. I hope Mr. Romm sees fit to actually see Pandora’s Promise and then writes a – hopefully – more useful review. His audience deserves no less.

  47. How long do you think our civilization is going to remain civilized?

    Much longer if we get the problems of energy shortages and climate change off the table.  Anything else is just planning for a collapse, with consequent population crash and massive ecological destruction as people eat and burn anything they can get their hands on to stay alive.

    Do you think Homeland Security is up to the task?

    If we close the borders and deport our illegal and terror-simp populations, we wouldn’t need DHS; local police would do.  Nuclear plants are very hard targets anyway, and we’d be better off if the bomb-throwers attacked them than buses, concert halls, schools or even power lines.

  48. Joris van Dorp says:

    You are missing the forest for the trees.

    Germany subsidies for solar and wind electricity are based on the *difference* between the market price of electricity, and the cost of producing electricity using solar and wind power!

    This fundamentally means that even while the *wholesale* price of electricity(during certain hours of the day) is plummeting due to wind/solar overbuild, the *cost* of this energy, to German taxpayers, is rising all the more!

    Please realize that most of the gullible reporting on the so-called ‘success’ of the German ‘energywende’, claiming the low, low *wholesale* prices of electricity in Germany, is simply *ignoring* the sustained, meteoric rise of energy subsidy costs for German taxpayers!

    Once you get your head around that one, you will perhaps find the motivation to delve into this sordid story a little deeper. What you’ll find is that the German ‘energywende’ is going to contain *ever larger and larger* subsidy demands going forward. In fact, if the Germans actually to manage to achieve 100% renewables, the subsidies paid by German taxpayers will need to be at least *ten times* higher than they are now, much of it to pay for the massive cost of large-scale electricity storage that they will need sooner or later. And already now, the subsidies are so high that lower earning German households are getting cut off from electricity supply in droves! Their numbers will keep growing.

    Anyway, there is much more here than meets the eye. Anyone who is willing to entertain just a little bit of honest curiosity into the no-nonsense long-term feasibility of the German Energiewende taken to it’s logical conclusion will have all he/she needs to uncover this dreadful tale, and he/she will find in it a very stern warning!

  49. To get 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear, as France does, the USA would need to build several hundred more nuclear power plants — more than currently exist in the whole world! — something that no nation on Earth has ever considered doing, let alone attempted.

    Do think the United States is not capable of an effort proportional to the size of its economy, given that France has already done the same?

    If we’re going to make such a transition, we should plan for electricity to replace a lot of other loads.  For instance, at least 50% of light-duty vehicle mileage should be electric, perhaps 70% of over-the-road trucking on Interstates (overhead wire power has been demonstrated), most space heat and DHW, and other things too.  The USA uses about 450 GW average, which we could probably boost to 750 GW, or about 700 AP-1000 reactors.  We’d make up the cost with savings on petroleum and health damage from air pollution, and they’d be a lot cheaper if we set up to build 700 of them.

    “Renewable subsidies have caused German solar power glut … Low German wholesale prices make it attractive for exports …

    In other words, German consumers pay for power they do not get to enjoy.  This works until the German consumer runs out of money, which poor households are doing already.  An increasing number are disconnected because they cannot pay their subsidy-padded bills, so they get NO electricity for months at a time.

    … The unsubsidized solar growth should drive wholesale power prices further down.”

    You just said that solar was subsidized.  What is it?

  50. EL says:

    Ever heard of the oil sands?

    They just removed themselves from Kyoto. Harper track record on environment is mixed to poor. Forestry, wolves, uranium contamination and clean-up decades behind schedule.

    People don’t fault Canada much on the environment because they have so much of it. They have a long ways to go to be recognized on an international basis for their policies, unless being recognized for rolling back tougher rules and standards is something they are seeking.

  51. If you wish to make a substantive argument, please say specifically which nuclear regulatory “costs and delays” are “unnecessary”,

    The NRC requirement that nuclear-rated components have each production step individually and exhaustively documented.

    , and why

    Because there is no indication that this improves the product in any way.  Standard commercial-grade valves and such do not have an appreciably higher failure rate.  All it does is drive cost through the roof, and inhibit the adoption of better production methods until they have been “certified”.

    We do not require such documentation for critical airframe parts in airliners, where a failure would kill all aboard within a minute.  A failure in a nuclear power plant might result in a cleanup in the containment building.  As we’ve seen at Fukushima Dai’ichi, even multiple massive failures killed nobody; 3 people who were assigned to walk through water in the basements without proper protective gear got the equivalent of a bad sunburn.  All have recovered.  If you look at the reality versus the FUD, it’s painfully obvious that the FUD is hysterically overblown even in the worst case.

  52. Ever heard of the oil sands?

    Yes.  I can describe SAGD, THAI and mature fine tailings at length.&bnsp; I know about the aromatics in the Athabasca river.  The number of people affected is very small, though I also would like it to be zero.

    They just removed themselves from Kyoto.

    And your response to this is to condemn Canada for mining a carbon-free energy source at Cigar Lake?

    Let me introduce you to a contrary view from a Canadian, Steve Aplin.  He has particularly trenchant commentary on CO2 emissions rates from Ontario electricity due to heavy reliance on CANDU reactors.

  53. Jason C says:

    To get to about 80% nuclear power in the United States would take about 200 new AP1000 plants added to the current fleet. To get rid of the worst of the worst coal burners, we’d only need to add 50 AP1000’s to the current fleet to bump up nuclear’s market share to about 35% of electrical generation. Since these reactors are larger in output than the average reactor in the current fleet and would average longer fuel usage, fewer would need to be added to gain a larger portion of market share.

    This would be a significant “wedge”. The only thing that has put a dent in the market share of fossil electricity generation is nuclear. The only thing recently that’s put a dent into the share of coal has been gas.

    Let’s not forget that nuclear already produces 70% of the emission free electricity in the United States. The next 20-25%+ comes from hydro. Wind only makes 4% last I checked. Without hydro and nuclear, both of which are baseload quality, the path to emission free electricity would be even more difficult.

    So the goal shouldn’t necessarily be 80% nuclear, but simply adding a reasonable new 50 plants would decrease emissions tremendously – more than any other power source.

  54. Martin Vermeer says:

    > You just said that solar was subsidized. What is it?

    the operative word is “was”. And still is. But not a lot longer.

  55. jmdesp says:

    @Martin : I’m not sure to get your point. Do you mean that Tobacco kills no one, or that many Americans have been killed by radiation without that being acknowledged ?

    The smoking industry spent billions of dollar to try to hide the health consequence of smoking. And for a while it worked, but at the end they failed. Check the numbers, the civil nuclear industry doesn’t even have one tenth of the money to spend tobacco has, has never made the same huge profit margin, so how could they have succeeded where tobacco failed ?

    BTW one the thing the tobacco industry managed to hide for a while was that it was sending much more radioactivity in the lung of smokers in the form of polonium 210 than civil nuclear ever has or could.
    That radioactivity and it’s effect are now well-known. But it’s still a small part of all the death smoking causes.

  56. gallopingcamel says:

    Robert Hargraves @16 points out that AP1000s in the People’s Republic of China cost $2/Watt or roughly half of what the same reactor costs in the USA assuming one has the testicular fortitude to navigate the licensing minefield. Florida Power & Light plans to build a couple of nukes so let’s hope they will not “chicken out”:

    Looking further ahead, small MSRs (Uranium or Thorium cycle) built in factories and delivered to site on a single 40′ truck have the potential to reduce “Overnight Costs” while reducing the load on the transmission network.

  57. Marcos says:

    I have seen the film and I disagree with Joe’s reasoning. I think the film is effective at overcoming much of the misinformation and reflexive fear about nuclear power. The idea that costs should be a focus of the film seems misguided to me in that the aim is to shift social attitudes to create openness for policy solutions, not to accomplish both of those steps at once. The best analogy I can think of is gay marriage. The aim has not been to offer wonky treatises on the various pathways to legalizing gay marriage and the social costs to do so. The emphasis has been on shifting social acceptance broadly, understanding that this creates the space for meaningful conversations about tactics and ensuing costs to take place.