“But make no mistake, [Bradley]’s as venomous an antinuke as the most biased Greenpeacer.” (Colin Hunt, Canadian Nuclear Society)
Social media exchanges are educational and informative. Going head-to-head with an intellectual foe is a great opportunity to learn and unmask error–and to find out what you do not know. I report, you decide on the exchanges below, which get into some basic issues and the history of a troubled, government-subsidized technology.
This LinkedIn exchange began with a post by Chris Keefer, Physician and President Canadians for Nuclear Energy:
Nuclear to the rescue. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Nuclear is best suited to replace many fossil fuel services. When fossil fuels become constrained nuclear doesn’t just become attractive, it becomes inevitable.
I responded as follows:
New nuclear capacity is just way too expensive and complicated compared to the alternatives. Always has been. Climate alarmism is not a reason to sanction the uneconomic, radically uneconomic. Can we repeal Price Anderson in 2025 to see if nuclear is really ‘safe’?
Colin Hunt, cochair, Government and Regulatory Affairs, Canadian Nuclear Society, replied:
Rob. mostly rubbish. Nuclear power is the only alternative that can be scaled to meet some of the energy needs provided by fossil fuel. This is precisely why it’s been developed in a host of nations in various places. Stated simply; there was no other alternative to nuclear power except to do without electricity.
I replied to Hunt:
Economics is about getting things done at least cost to free resources for other employments.
Nuclear is the most expensive, complicated way to boil water. Why not everything else to generate electricity that is cheaper: oil, natural gas, coal, or falling water?
Climate alarmism is a thin reed to justify nuclear, an industry that really never should have been except for a whole lot of government favor sixty-to-seventy years ago.
“Climate alarmism?” Big swing and miss. I’m surprised that you are unaware that nuclear power was built because other power sources were simply unavailable or not possible. Let me be clear for you: “doing without is not an option for a modern society.”
I replied to Hunt:
Your statement … “I’m surprised that you are unaware that nuclear power was built because other power sources were simply unavailable or not possible” … is factually incorrect.
The Bandwagon Effect of the mid-to-late 1960s was on the (false) promise of nuclear being cheaper than coal-fired plants (and guess what emerged about the same time–gas-fired plants).
Then coal plants were the option when interstate gas shortages (from federal price controls, which were mostly removed in 1978). Didn’t need the early 1970s nuclear spurt which created more malinvestment. And now: Gen 4 or whatever premised on climate alarmism.
What am I missing? None of this would have happened with Price Anderson taking ‘how safe is safe’ off the table. And the other subsidies, such as four years of free fuel for nuclear developers back in the day. [ed. note: it was five years of free enhanced uranium from the Atomic Energy Commission]
The experience in the rest of the world contradicts you. Try getting outside the United States sometime. The world is not defined by Beltway carpetbaggers.
Are you familiar with the Export-Import Bank policy in the 1960s–a huge push by US nuclear venders to export US nuclear design and operation abroad.
Taxpayer subsidies and mostly working with governments, not private parties in a competitive market.
In Canada, is the nuclear industry subsidized insurance-wise or otherwise by the government? New projects stand-alone or government dependent? I think I know the answer.
So why has nuclear always been government-dependent and otherwise problematic? Simple answer, the most complicated, expensive, dangerous way to boil water. (All three go together)
I don’t care in the slightest about what the US did with Eximbank. That has nothing to do with the rest of the world and the need for nuclear power in specific places.
Canada subsidized? No.
the U.S. Ex-Im Bank is the reason that Europe first went nuclear, if you want to know.
Regarding Canada, new nuclear is a creature of government: https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/canada-backs-nuclear-power-project-with-c970-mln-financing-2022-10-25/
Natural gas combined cycle is a fraction of the cost of new nuclear, right?
A 2022 news conference has nothing to do with nuclear power in Canada as built and exists now. As for your fantasies about Ex-im bank, you can ignore the political and geographic realities of the 1950s and 1960s all you want. No one believes your distortions.
First, our discussion has to do with new capacity, not “nuclear power in Canada as built and exists now.” I thought this was clear. New capacity has ‘government’ (taxpayer) written all over it.
Regarding “As for your fantasies about Ex-im bank … “
“AEC and the Export-Import Bank were busy approving low-interest loans by the mid-1950s for nuclear equipment purchased by countries having signed Agreements for Cooperation with the U.S. The taxpayer loans required those countries to buy American, which redounded to General Electric, Westinghouse, Babcock & Wilcox, and Combustion Engineering in particular.
The European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC), established in 1957, partnered with the U.S. calling for 1,000 MW of nuclear capacity be built by 1968 using U.S. patents.
“The cooperative arrangement,” summarized one study, “provided for low interest Export/Import Bank loans, lease of enriched uranium fuel from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission together with U.S. government guarantees of the supply and performance of the fuel, and for a jointly funded research and development program.” This amounted to one-half of EAEC’s estimated budget, which would create “a European nuclear energy supply system based wholly on American technology.”
 Bupp and Derian, Light Water, p. 20. With OECD countries eligible, two dozen Agreements were in place pertaining to nuclear power by 1955.
 Ibid., 29.
Then Hunt goes nuclear:
Good for you, Boyd [who criticized me personally]. But make no mistake, he’s as venomous an antinuke as the most biased Greenpeacer.
Exchange with Boyd Fairey:
Fairey: Original Nuclear plants were cheaper to build than Coal plants and still should be. The reason for the unnecessary expense is well stated in the book. The expense arguments although currently true, need not be so….
Bradley: There were a few ‘loss leaders’ of GE and then Westinghouse early on (money losers, as admitted), but even these plants got free fuel and were subsidized by Price Anderson.
Nuclear, as it turned out, was not cheaper than coal plants in the 1960s and certainly after. Always a mirage ….
Allow Price Anderson to expire in 2025 and see what happens. The subsidy dates from 1957. Been extended several times with the industry screaming ‘help’. What does that tell you?
Fairey: Some of what you say is true. Some of it is your interpretation of the history without context. You’re obviously an intelligent person. What have you got to loose. Maybe you might better understand the opposition and have more complete debunking talking points after a good read. Try the book.
Bradley: Ordered. I have about ten other books on nuclear subjects I am working through–and all of them point toward the same thing. Government pushing and subsidizing resulting in too many designs and too many projects creating diseconomies of scale. The industry should have developed much slower (and would have in a free market world). Maybe then it could have been a niche, viable power source in remote regions of the world–and in smaller units.
Fairly: Saw your response to someone else claiming Nuclear is complicated, dangerous and expensive and felt bound to respond. Nuclear technology really isn’t complex. Indeed it’s less complex than coal plants. It’s basically magic rocks boiling water. The perception of complexity is mostly due to onerous regulations.
Dangerous? Really? Rob that’s a claim you simply can’t get away with. Fairly well known in these parts that it’s the safest baseload power source. Multiple sources and examples on this. Think you should “print a retraction” there bud. On expense, the book we’ve talked about deals with this.
Bradley: “Dangerous” means that you have to spend a whole lot of money to make it safe. But what is safe? Can Price Anderson be abolished in 2025 to help answer the question from self-interested parties in the private sector?
“It’s basically magic rocks boiling water. The perception of complexity is mostly due to onerous regulations.” Do you have an example of a cheap nuclear plant from any country?
So why more than 50 years after it started building nuclear plants does Westinghouse mess up and go bankrupt?
God bless Calvert Cliffs.
“Subsidized with Price Anderson”? Price Anderson was created in 1957. It requires nuclear plant owners to pay up to about $121,000,000 for each plant they own should a nuclear accident claim be submitted. It also requires the Federal Government to pay for accident costs should the amounts exceed plant owner liability. During the 67 years since the Acts creation, a total of about $151,000,000 has been paid out, half of which was for Three Mile Island. That amounts to about $2.3 million per year from an industry that produces about 19% of all the electrical energy consumed in the country. No claim has ever been paid by the Federal Government during the 67 years of Price Anderson. In recent years, the efficiency of our current nuclear power plants has been increased by about 14% over the years allowing them to produce about the same amount of electricity now as was the case a decade ago with fewer plants in operation. The current average cost for nuclear-generated electricity is about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, lower than most other non-nuclear plants most times. As are all electricity producers, nuclear power is subject to the “tyranny of gas” as it is called. At present, gas sells for about 4 times more than it did a couple of years ago and is presently non-competitive with gas for electricity production but this will change as it always has.
First, the payouts versus pay-in’s re Price Anderson should make a case for ending the nuclear insurance subsidy. That comes up for renewal in 2025. So a change to settle the ‘how safe is safe’ question in the free market.
Second, I am talking about NEW capacity, not existing capacity. “The current average cost for nuclear-generated electricity is about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour” might be three or four times higher for new capacity. (Can any company offer a turnkey Nuclear project with a fixed price and delivery date??)
This is now obsolete: “At present, gas sells for about 4 times more than it did a couple of years ago and is presently non-competitive with gas for electricity production but this will change as it always has.” Just need to enter into a long-term natural gas contract to lock-in prices.
Private insurers would not insure nuclear, so Price Anderson was enacted. One result was that homeowner insurance policies near a reactor included a nuclear ‘out’.
Why don’t life insurance policies require higher premiums for those who work in the nuclear industry or live near nuclear power stations if the plants are as dangerous as you claim?
Wouldn’t the absence of higher premiums render the free market’s verdict on the safety of nuclear power plants?
I am not claiming that nuclear plants are dangerous–I just do not know. That is why insurance companies need to insure nuclear plants with Price Anderson repealed.
Once the plants are insured, the private parties can also work to get the onerous regulations removed that add cost but do not improve safety.
This is something we both can support, correct?