Runaway bride

Good one here on the Register, apparently the spooks had to througholy plan for the Royal wedding including ensuring every possible scenario was taken into account, such as Bin Laden lying in wait for the wedding carriage under a manhole cover, or one presumes a two headed alien showing up and saying “hi baby, I’m from another planet! wana see my rocket!” . Or the slightly more likely runaway bride scenario, give it a read its good craic!

…or maybe we just have to accept that MI-5 (not nine till five…more like ten till half four :DD) have way too much free time on their hands. Hey Cameron! if you’re reading this I think I’ve found a government department you can take the old Tory sissors too…

Election update – Fear factor

Still the smearing on AV goes on. The current line from the Tories seems to be that if AV comes through Nick Griffin will become an MP (or something like that! :crazy:).

That would be terrible, the Queen would have to put up with a racist round the palace making un-PC remarks about foreigners while wearing nazi armbands…though you’d think she’s used to that by now wt Harry and the Duke ;D! And least we forget the BNP policy is that all the foreigners should go home…like the Queen (German) and her husband (Greek) :>>? It’s like the whole protestant v’s catholic debate in NI or Glasgow. Should you have one German in Rome as head of the church…or another German in London :))?

The reality is, that the chances of the BNP getting seats in Westminster is still unlikely, even with AV. Remember, you still need to get 50%+ of all the votes in a constituency in order to get elected, and for any minority party that’s still a tall order. While yes, the chances of the BNP getting elected are higher under AV than under FPtP, its certainly not that high.

And also I’d say if a few BNP guys got in, so what? Nobody is going to go into coalition with them, they’d be committing political suicide if they did. It might even have a sliver lining. A few of the closet racists who support them might get scared straight. Also the shelf life of “successful” far right parties in Europe and their leaders is relatively short. The other skin heads get all jealous and try to steal some of his thunder. Already we signs of this with the National Front forming (for anyone who thinks Nick Griffin’s too far to the left!). I would suspect therefore that even if the BNP did win seats, the following election they’d loose them again as the voters for the National Front diluted their support. Then the election after that, they’d both loose out to the “I can’t believe we’re not racist, Party”, and the election after that they’d all loose out to “Old geezers who fought in the war like (least we think we did) and read the Daily Mail that reckon we should bring back hangin and get out of Europe party” (also known as UKIP for short).

Confusingly of course, the BNP seem to be against AV, so now the “Yes” camp are using this to scare people into voting yes. Like I said fear and loathing!

Why is Nick Griffin against AV? probably because, as I’ve pointed out above, he reckon’s it might cost him his job…or maybe because he won’t dare support a policy those pesky Imigrant hugging liberals proposed. Maybe the Lib dems should endorse a policy that all racist are banned from voluntarily walking off cliffs :DD

Also, I have in front of me the candidate lists for our party list votes in Glasgow. One thing stands out, the Respect party (Gorgeous George) have 8 names down, the same as Labour and the Lib dems and the socialists have 7 (more than the Tories who only have 4). Who are these guys trying to fool? Does George Galloway (the former big brother contestant) really think he’s going to fill 8 seats, and do the socialists really think they’ll get 7? If either of them get one seat, they’ll be lucky and I mean one seat between…the three of them, jasus! There’s TWO socialist parties standing, AND Respect!…quick thought here guys, you ever think that by having 3 of ye’s in the same constituency…you’ll just get a third of the socialist vote each…meaning none of you’s will get any seats and instead by denying each other a seat, then that last party list seat will go too…well probably the Greens or the TORIES actually :**:!

Of course the escapades up here in Scotland of the socialist should assure anyone worried about “extremists” taking power via AV. The truth is most of these parties (BNP, SSP, UKIP, etc.) are their own worst enemy. The slightest whiff of real power and they’ll be fighting like cats amongst each other.

And scare mongering, by either side, isn’t the way to win the AV debate. I don’t give two hoots what the BNP thinks of AV, nor should anyone else!

Election update

Well its election season up here in Scotland and I need to decide who to vote for…probably today, as I’ll be using a postal vote this time (so you could say I’m about to go postal :DD). I’m inclined, I have to say, towards SNP….no, I’m not a raving loony Independence supporter, nor am going to start giving out about the Highland Clearances, or Queen Mary, or Culloden, or William Wallace :##, etc. The fact is the SNP ain’t doing too bad a job, so why break up a good think?……Although every time I hear Alex Salmond talk I’m often reminded of the dog in that Churchill ad ;D. Bottom line, you can still vote SNP and tell Alex to play the Scotland the Brave in his own time if and when an independence referendum comes up.

What worries me about voting Labour or Lib dem is that both of these parties Scottish wings seem to need permission from London to tie their own shoelaces. This undermines the whole point of devolved government. Neither of these parties seem to have worked out that whole the point of the Scottish parliament is that the party in Scotland makes the decisions, rather than waiting on Milbank tower (or downing street) to tell them what to do. The SNP, Greens and (oddly enough) the Scottish Conservatives 8| seem to have worked this one out, hence why I’d be only interested in voting for one of these candidates (while the many socialist candidates up here have also worked this one out, they spend too much time fighting each other to waste ones time with :lalala:). None of the three parties I’ve mentioned above, but the SNP, has any chance of getting elected in my constituency (this is Glasgow, every night after an election we form into gangs to hunt down anyone who voted conservative, any found, who aren’t an Orangeman…or Rangers fan, are tarred, feathered and left at the outskirts of Edinburgh :>>). So given that I’m inclined to vote for the SNP anyway, I may as well. I’ll probably put the Green down for the party list, as I don’t want to give all my support to SNP (like I said, I’m not some raving loony Braveheart watching independence supporter)…but I’m thinking that one over right now.

Which brings us to the AV referendum. Obviously I’ll be voting yes, really it’s a no brainer. The current first past the post (FPtP) system is unfair and has numerous potential flaws. FPtP makes it harder to unseat sitting MP’s, particularly those in “safe” seats like Glasgow (for Labour). The MP’s know that they can pretty much get away with doing anything (or indeed doing nothing) as it would take a massive swing in support to unseat them under FPtP. This leads to a lot of political complacency, something that always needs to be combated in any democracy. Take America, also run under a FPtP system. It’s been warped by this system into a dull two party system :yawn:, where you could barely squeeze a loo roll between the two party’s policies. Many Congressmen in America actually run unopposed, as there’s little point in the Democrat’s, or anyone else for that matter, challenging a Republican incumbent in Texas, or challenging a Democrat in a work class ward of San Francisco.

Also, FPtP leads to negative voting and negative campaigning. The truth is that under FPtP many of us vote against someone, rather than for the candidate we want. For example, imagine you’re a Labour supporter on the left of the party, but you’re local labour candidate is basically an incompetent Yes-man whose little more than a Tory with a red tie on. However, there’s little point in voting for anyone else (we’ll say for sake of argument you like the local lib dem candidate) as you’d be just throwing away your vote. The labour guy is the only one who has half a chance of beating the conservative candidate, who we’ll assume for sake of argument, is some Tory Tosser eurosceptic whom the Daily mail is always complimenting. Obviously in this scenario, you’d probably just have to hold your nose and vote labour 😳 (i.e against the Tory’s) as opposed to voting for someone you liked (the lib dem). And of course we could easily reverse this situation as well (i.e you’re a eurosceptic, but you’re local Tory is pro-eu, but you vote for him anyway just to stop the lib dems or labour).

This negative voting behaviour also encourages negative campaigning, as it’s easier to just spread scare stories about your opponent as opposed to presuade people to vote for you because they like your policies. In the American election recently the vast majority of campaign ads tend to be negative ones. And the candidates often spend more time complaining about the other guy than explaining why voting for them was such a good idea. This seems to be spreading to the UK. We had a pretty quiet campaign up here in Glasgow last election (because the local labour guys were so safe they didn’t even bother campaigning nor did anyone bother trying to unseat them) but more of the election literature I saw was negative than positive (interesting aside, last time, the BNP literature came in the letterbox at the same time as the Tory party stuff….this time the BNP and lib dem stuff came thro at the same time… I reading a little too much into this :crazy:). The AV system will dampen down such trends and encourage more competition for seats. It will ensure MP’s have to sing for their supper.

But AV will lead to an eternity of weak, squabbling, coalition governments…
Not it won’t! Firstly, its still possible for a government to form an overall majority under AV if they get enough support. Tony Blair would have won the latter in both of his first two elections, as would the Tory’s under Thatcher. Also on the core policies of government you’ll often find widespread cross party support for most things (e.g staying in the EU, staying out of the Euro, fighting climate change, about 70% of all economic and health policy, going to war with the French if they invade, etc ;D.). Its only the details of how these policies are implemented, or other less urgent issues that usually slows things down, and in a crisis such squabbling can be easily deferred to another day. Up here in Scotland the SNP, despite being a minority government with no formal coalition agreement, has got by okay.

Also generally in any coalition, one party, usually the largest dominates things. The partner gets a few of his key policies tied into the government manifesto, but aside from that, they’re only real power is the ability to effectively veto policy if the bigger party begins to misbehave. Or bring down the government if the larger party starts to abuse its power. The AV will limit the powers of governments charge is actually a good thing rather than a bad thing. The truth is we want to limit the power of governments. There are many occasions where majority governments will drive through legislation that they know is immensely unpopular with the people, and indeed their own party, but by virtue of their majority they can just ignore having to have a democratic debate about the matter and use the whips to enforce party discipline.

Take the Iraq war. Had Labour been in a coalition at the time, its very likely this coalition partner would have dug in the heels and said No! :no: or demanded a more in depth debate both in parliament (the official debate here only lasted a few hours) and in public. A more in depth debate about policy often leads to flaws in the policy being quickly identified, the recent bill on selling off the forests was a good example. In the case of the Iraq war, its probable the sexing up of the Dodgy Dossier would have been exposed. Which not only decreases the chances of Britain going to war, but also means that Congress won’t have voted for it once news travelled across the pond that Bush was telling porkies. In short it is this first past the post system that gave us the Iraq war and 8 years of Bush (and if you’re a Tory 14 years of Tony Blair).

There are indeed situations in Europe where its taken an inordinately long time to form a government or where they have formed weak governments that have collapsed quickly. This is, I would argue, more a matter of internal politics in these countries than anything to do with AV. Take Belgium (please take it away! ;D), the reason they are having problems is that secretly a lot of the people on both sides want to split the country in two and they have an agenda to undermine the powers of the Belgian central government :**:. I can all but guarantee you that if they re-ran the election under FPtP they’d end up right where they are now.

Like I said, AV is a no brainer. The only people campaigning against it are the usual suspects of safe-seat incompetents cumbents :zz: who fear redundancy once people start to realise that politicians have to work for a living. I won’t be surprised if Dave Cameron secretly agrees with AV, but has to campaign against it as his own party would roast him alive if he didn’t.

Nuclear Reality Check, Chapter II – Are the French running a Ponzi scheme?

In some of my recent posts (here and here) I’ve tried to impress upon any nuclear industry cheerleaders, that Post-Fukushima (now a class 7 accident), who happen upon my ramblings, that they need to take a healthy dose of reality.

A further example of the fallacy of nuclear energy, at least as far as economics are concerned, comes from this hard hitting report from CitiGroup, released I might add before Fukushima happened. This is a report written not by Greenpeace, nor Friends of the Earth, nor any other group one could accuse of having “anti-nuclear” bias, it’s written by bankers and economists and it pulls no punches. It is, by the standards of any financial services company (who normally try to avoid saying anything that would upset potential customers), very abrasive and to the point. It bluntly states what people in the anti-nuclear movement have been saying for decades – NUCLEAR POWER IS NOT ECONOMICALLY VIABLE.

Citigroup, make clear that the much vaunted idea, that if we slap a carbon tax on everything it would make nuclear energy economically viable, just isn’t going to cut it (a carbon tax would thought make a whole host on renewable energy options viable, but that’s another day’s post). The report highlights several financial risks associated with nuclear power, construction cost overruns for example (which often run at 50% or more), delays in bringing a plant online (meaning you’re paying interest on a loan for longer, not to mention lost revenue due to the fact the plant isn’t generating electricity), decommissioning costs, waste disposal costs, nevermind the other “unexpected” costs issues with nuclear, i.e sudden needs for safety upgrades, security and of course the effects of any accident. Even the largest company (or bank) does not have pockets deep enough to fund all the liabilities arising from a worst case scenario nuclear accident. In short the only way nuclear power will work financially, is if the government holds the industry’s hand every step of the way, right from the sod turning ceremony to disposal of waste (and one presumes guarding it for the next few millennia). This is backed up by another recent study here from the University of Greenwich (report on that here) and even MIT (news article with link to it here).

Of course getting such harsh realities into the fact-opaque minds of the nuclear cheerleaders is next to impossible. As I’ve shown in previous posts, they are often deluded and somewhat crazy. They’re reaction to such “facts” is not far removed from the reaction of a Creationists to proof of Darwinian evolution…oh! that must be wrong, all part of you’re bias gay/atheist/communist /fascist agenda!

The reaction to the above statement, regarding the utter lack of financial viability of nuclear power, is usually to point to the French…oh! if what Citigroup says above is true, why are the French companies still building nuclear power stations? Why are they prepared to build them in Finland, China, the UK or Italy without any subsidies from government?

The answer to this question boils down to three things – Stealth subsidies, Jobs-4-the-boys and what could well be the biggest Ponzi scheme in history

Part of the problem, I think, is that so many people in the world think that Keynesian economics (and state intervention in industry) is a long since dead and buried concept. For better or for worse, rumours of Keynesian economics death have been greatly exaggerated. Even in supposedly “free market” America such policies are alive and well (see United States of France here), in the form of generous farm subsidies, a Medicare/Medicaid program that amounts to a massive feed trough for the pharmaceuticals industry to wallow in (Obama’s health care system is something else entirely, its actually scheduled to decrease the deficit), over half a trillion dollars a year military budget (mostly spend in swing states), a NASA that’s run as little more than a jobs program by Congress (again mostly in swing states), and in recent years, the effective state subsidising of the banking and car manufacturing industries. Contrary to what you hear from Fox News or the Tea-baggers, the biggest supporters of this vast corporate welfare program are in fact the Republican Party (here and here). It is of course Ironic how the US (and the west in general) can shove law-of-the-jungle Neo-liberal capitalism down the throats of so many countries around the world (and they’re own poorer citizens) while not practicing what they preach.

J’adore le Keynes
…But I digress, of course the biggest supporter of Keynesian economics is by far and away the French. To the French government its nuclear industry is little more than one of a number of Giant welfare to work programs, much like its car, space launch, aerospace and defence industries. These all serve one purpose, to keep Jean-Claude and Pierre in gainful employment and off the dole queue. Granted, better to have French workers doing something productive (even if they do it while running a business at a loss), compared to the alternative…. clearly demonstrated during Thatcher’s reign of error in the UK, which saw the wholesale decimation of the UK economy countrywide, turning once vibrant working class mining and industrial towns into little more than welfare colonies (with heightened rates of crime, drug abuse, etc.). However, I’d question whether what the French are up to was quite what John Maynard Keynes had in mind! – especially as I’d question as whether French cars or nuclear reactors count as something “productive” and useful to society. And there’s also the issue of sustainability. Keynes never advocated deficit spending on a permanent basis, even state supported industries need to pay for themselves eventually.

So in short, the economics of nuclear energy matter little to the French. So long as they get to keep churning out reactors, it’s a case of Je ne comprends pas l’économie! Of course there are two flaws in the French strategy, firstly it will only continue to work so long as the French government keeps signing big cheques for the nuclear industry (and basically ignoring the laws of economic gravity) and secondly they need to keep building reactors. If they stop building for any reason that means the wheels come off their little scheme… and that means big lay offs…and nobody does a strike like the French! So since the 70’s they’ve been continually churning out reactors at a regular basis. Now they’ve got to the stage of getting up to 80%+ of they’re electricity and 40% of their primary energy consumption from Nuclear. Many nuclear cheerleaders look on with admiration at this. Those who know anything about energy security look on with derision. That level of dependency on nuclear is dangerously high. Keen as I am on renewables, I question the wisdom of any country trying to get more than 50% of its electricity (or more than 33% of its total energy) from, say wind or Hydro alone (of course they could get 30% from each, 10% from solar, 8% from Tidal….). This applies doubly so for a relatively risky energy source like nuclear, dependant on a steady stream of Uranium shipped in from abroad. The French are already the largest net electricity exporter in the world, so adding further nuclear capacity would be seriously pushing the bullshit barrier. Any future building in the country will be a case of maintaining existing capacity for reactors taken offline. Hence like any grand scam….sorry! I meant scheme, they need to go international and find more suckers….sorry! I meant customers.

Entre les marques
So enter the Finn’s. There has been an interesting clash of cultures over the Olkiluoto plant, i.e. that of a Finnish utility company that (vaguely) operates in the real world of economics and a French construction company that is oblivious to such issues (see here and here). The Olkiluoto reactor is vastly over budget and a good 3 years late. For TVO (the Finns) this means of course 3 years interest payments on large loans (for a building site) going back to the bank for further loans, and loss of revenue to the tune of a Billion euros (at least!) in electricity sales. Naturally, they’re opinion seems to be that the French should now pay these additional costs. Of course do you’re sums, assume the Finns paying only what the original contract said the reactor would cost (€2.7 Billion Euros), and the French would all but be supplying the Finns with a reactor almost free of charge. Fat chance of that happening I hear you say? Actually I won’t be surprised if the French, eventually, do cave in. After some brinkmanship, of course and making sure that the deal is done nice and quiet mind. After all, Ponzi schemes are like fairies, as soon as people stop believing in them they die. The French want further reactor building contracts in Europe so it wouldn’t do to burn a potential customer.

In Britain the likely buyer of any reactors will be another French company, one that is 85% owned by the French government. Obviously, they’ve decided that buying up Britain’s own bankrupt nuclear industry (which essentially went bankrupt trying to run nuclear power according to the normal rules of market economics) is the best way to generate new customers. The Chinese, USA, Italians and the UAE are all set to follow.

La merde frappe le ventilateur
Of course, like all Ponzi schemes the wheels will eventually come off. Either the French will run out of money or lenders will do the little sum I’m about to do and stop lending to them or countries will stop ordering reactors, or there will be an accident at a French built nuclear plant and all of these things will happen. Then the chickens will come home to roost.

The liabilities the French are accumulating with their nuclear industry are quite troubling. As much as €1.5-3 Billion per reactor installed (that’s the cost over and above what they get back in revenue, the two EPR’s currently under construction in Europe come in at between 5-6.8 Billion Euros to build, but they’ll probably only be paid at most 3 Billion for them).

Note, that anything you here regarding the Chinese EPR reactors doesn’t apply. If the 5 year plan says that the reactor will be build in 46 months and cost 3 Billion, then that’s exactly what they’ll report happened….even if it actually takes twice as long and costs 3 times as much! This is a fact of life as regards communist governments. The French have every incentive to go along with that.

Assuming the French build at least 40 EPR’s to replace existing kit when it expires, plus say 10 or so abroad, that’s a good € 100-200 Billion subsidy to the nuclear industry, never mind we assume a similar subsidy already paid out to support the existing fleet of reactors. Then there are running costs. Difficult to say how much that’s costing them as no EPR is yet operational. For the interim we’ll be kind and assume revenue neutral (i.e electricity sales cover the costs of running the plant), but I stress that this assumption could be wrong.

Then there are the costs of decommissioning. The first of the French reactors to be decommissioned, Brennilis, is causing a mild flutter. Despite its tiny 70MW output, its decommissioning costs now hover around the € 480 million mark. Translate that into a per MW basis gives use some disturbingly high figures (480m/70 = € 6.85m/MW). This is well above what the nuclear industry have been regularly saying as to nuclear decommissioning costs of around $0.5m/MW (or € 0.75m/MW). That said, the Nuclear industry have a habit of being off by quite a bit in their cost estimates, especially the French, so not really a huge surprise. If the figure for Brennilis was applied across the entire French nuclear fleet (48,000 MW of installed capacity built) you get a decommissioning cost estimate of € 329 Billion! Now one could say I’m being unkind, Brennilis was a small one-off and unique gas-cooled reactor, the bulk of the PWR’s should be much cheaper to decommission….or then again they could be a lot higher, we’ll have to see. But even if we assume costs a quarter this level, that’s still another € 82 Billion or so euro hole that’s due too be burnt in the French pocket. Of course those 40 EPR’s will want decommissioning eventually also, although that invoice won’t land on Le Presidente desk for a good few decades, even so it will be for another €115-460 Billion that the French will have to shoulder. Then there’s the other “one off” reactors, principally they’re Fast Reactor programs, add say €10-20 Billion for those, COGEMA La Hague (my guess at least € 40 Billion…and that’s on the low side! as I’m assuming it won’t be anymore than the costs of decommissioning Selafield, of course as COGEMA is a much larger and complex site the decom costs could be many multiples higher than I’m assuming), their liabilities related to mining back in Niger (a similar sized mine in Canada is costing $ 5 Billion or around € 7 Billion), final geological storage (my guess, given the amount of waste they’ve generated, plus what the EPR’s will add is in line with the Yucca mountain facility which had a price tag of $ 96 Billion or €130 Billion at cancellation, thought ultimately it could go higher than even this). Add it all up and we’re talking about a minimum of around € 280 Billion onto the French national debt, a worst case scenario of just over one Trillion Euros, assuming I stress, no accidents (in which case you’re guess is as good as mine!).

Now in le grande scheme of things you could say that 280-1,100 Billion Euros ain’t a lot compared to the current French debt mountain of 4,400 Billion euros (and climbing). But even the lower figure is more than enough to function as the straw bale that breaks the French camel’s back. It’s substantially more than the financial bailout most countries have had to apply to recover from the recent financial crisis and that was widely seen as pushing the boat out. And don’t forget we’ve only totalled up liabilities associated with the French civil nuclear program, ignoring their military nuclear liabilities and current Fusion energy research liabilities. While it would be unfair to include these in any discussion about civilian nuclear power, they are still there and will also have to be paid for by the French taxpayer…or not!

Keep in mind these costs above will likely peak sometime around the late 2030’s or early 2040’s when they’ll be trying to decommission at the same time as building new reactors. That is around the same time scale as the economic effects of the baby boomer pension time bomb will be peaking , the economic effects of peak oil will be being felt, the impacts of climate change will start to have financial consequences and I suspect (as its own General accounting office figures suggest), around the same time as the United States finally goes bankrupt (with severe economic fallout for the whole world). It is difficult to avoid a scenario that doesn’t involve French national bankruptcy to some degree.

Les Miserables
Of course, the IMF and the EU, which in both cases basically means the Germans, will no doubt ride to the rescue. However, their prescription for the French will be harsh medicine. Namely, all of these French “jobs programs”, the car industry, aerospace industry, the European Parliament in Strasbourg (which will now move permanently to Brussels), the French nuclear deterrent and of course the Nuclear energy industry (including possibly the ITER fusion experiment) will all likely face Madame le Guillotine. Jean Claude and Pierre will be getting Le dernier adieu. Of course this will lead to them having more time to partake in that most French of pastimes – Le émeute (the riot). But on the plus side, they’ll now have no shortage of unreliable French cars to torch!

As always happens when a Ponzi scheme goes tits up it’s the “investors” (or “marks” as they’re more commonly known) who get rightly shafted. Obviously if any country has the French actually building reactors at the time of said collapse expect either a sudden revision in the cost of said reactor installation (dramatically upwards that is!)….or the French workers just disappearing one night and leaving a multi Billion pound hole in the ground. If the French are actually operating reactors abroad, as they currently are doing in the UK, expect a sudden hike in electricity prices as the real costs of nuclear energy are suddenly applied. Pointing out to them that this isn’t in the contract that they signed, will matter little – that contract was valid only so long as the law’s of economic gravity remained suspended. If a French reactor has actually gone into meltdown (either abroad or by scattering radiation all over Europe, noting that in the lead up to this financial crisis that’s a not unrealistic possibility, if they’re having financial problems and decide to start cutting corners) don’t even bother asking for compo, as mon dieu! Je suis treis désolé! may offend. There’ll be no point trying to hold the French feet to the flames over this, as with them likely defaulting on debts left, right and centre, the only way the French could afford now to pay such liabilities would be a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul (i.e. if the Brit’s try to tap them for compo over a reactor popping its cork in Kent the only way the French could pay is by getting the EU to write out the Brits a cheque….which the Brits will have to contribute towards!).

Now anyone reading this may well say, surely this has to be wrong! For the French to do as you describe would be utterly stupid….and for us to be pumping billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere knowing full well the consequences, is that any less stupid? Or how about pumping Trillions into an unsustainable housing boom? or encouraging everyone to go buy big SUV’s when all the indicators are the oil’s running out? As I recall Jared Diamond saying in his book, the collapse of many civilisations can be summed up by a chain of entirely rational short term decisions, which when summed together, turned out to be essentially irrational in the long term. Much like Bernie Madoff the French have proven to be a little too clever for they’re own good and they are now trapped by they’re own strategy. Short of the entire population of France sneaking off and resettling in Canada under assumed names, they’ve no choice now but to play it out till then end (or until the rest of the EU pulls the plug on they’re little scheme). They are not only steaming they’re nuclear ship at full speed straight for the financial Iceberg, but monsieur le présidente is leading a chorus of La Marseillaise from the tip of the bow.

So you’ll excuse me when I say that French “success” in Nuclear power does little to encourage me as too its viability. Indeed, it rather does the opposite. When a group of bankers come out and tell you you’re numbers don’t add up (these are the same guys who missed the sub-prime bubble mind), that’s when you should know you’re snookered.

And if they’re anyone reading this who still thinks nuclear energy is a good financial bet…. I have this friend you see…..we’ve a little investment portfolio thing going.…in…..nuke stuff and magic beans (or something)….just give me £1,000 tomorrow……and I’ll give you back £100 next week and the same the week after…..and after that…..


The top ten common myths of the nuclear cheerleaders

As I mentioned in a previous posting the worst enemy of the nuclear industry is not Greenpeace or the environmentalists, but many of they’re own nutty cheerleaders. The more reasoned voices within the industry, which say that yes it can supply some small amount of the world’s energy, at least while we still have uranium around and we’re prepared to foot the bill for building and decommissioning reactors (which they admit is probably higher than the alternatives but you have to look at the issue of energy security). Unfortunately these people tend to get drowned out by they’re colleagues who are more motivated by job security than any genuine concern for the world’s energy security.

The second category of the nuclear cheerleaders includes the numerous PR gurus who lobby and schmooze on the industries behalf. Few of this last category have any relevant qualifications (not that this stops them claiming to be “experts”) and often work for large PR agencies, who count the Tobacco industry and the fossil fuel lobby among they’re other clients. This last point is relevant for as I shall demonstrate these PR types often use the same tactics the tobacco and global warming denial lobby utilise to promote nuclear energy while distorting the facts.

Finally you have by far and away the majority of the nuclear cheerleaders – the sheep. These are people who generally don’t really know very much about nuclear energy, other than what they’ve lapped up from industry produced propaganda. They tend to be either unaware of many of the negative aspects of nuclear energy or assume that all such stories are the product of a bias media…yet they happily lap up stories from the very same media whenever they say something positive about nuclear energy (usually the result of lobbying by the PR types mentioned above). This last category of nuclear cheerleader are probably the most dangerous, as they are quite happy to pass himself off as “experts” to anyone who’ll listen and fill other people’s heads with pure industry generated drivel and half truths.

These “sheep” are essentially worshippers of a “scientific cargo cult” , something that has the illusion of science but is actually more a creation of science fiction. There are several other examples of such “scientific cargo cults” such as those trying to develop SSTO space vehicles that violate the cold equations of spaceflight, or nano-technology “assemblers” (that ignore the very basics of thermodynamics and atomic theory) or Intelligent design (that ignores science altogether!). All of these examples as well as some aspects of the nuclear dream all share one think in common – they are founded on myth’s that are at odds with reality.

Don’t get me wrong, we can do a great deal more than we are currently doing in space (for a lot less money too!), and nano-technology has many potentially exciting applications (notably in the field of renewable energy), and there is some potential scope to use nuclear power in the future (but only so long as we’re prepared to pay the price both in financial and environmental terms), but the idealistic visions promoted by some in these fields are just non-starters, usually for fairly simple technical reasons. Wasting time and money pursuing such impossible goals will only make achieved more reasoned and plausible objectives less likely.

To prevent anyone reading this from getting sucked into this nuclear energy cargo cult (as recently happened to the (former) environmentalists George Monbiot) I will explain a couple of the common myths that these cheerleaders spout out and demonstrate how they are wrong, illogical and totally divorced from reality.

Myth I – The Fukushima accident is a “Triumph” of nuclear technology, it proves it works safelyReality: It raises some important questions about many aspects of nuclear safety

Myth II – Only 56 people were killed by the Chernobyl accidentReality: The death toll from Chernobyl was many times higher, in the order of thousands at least

Myth III – Radiation isn’t that dangerous at all, it’s over exaggerated by the media, why the impact of Chernobyl was no worse than a few dozen chest x-rays each, and TMI was no worse than you’d get eating a bananaReality: The effects of radiation from artifical sources is potentially quite serious

Myth IV – Nuclear power is cheaper than any of the alternativesReality: Its actually more expensive than most of the alternatives!

Myth V – But we can’t rely on renewables, because of their intermittent natureReality: Nuclear power has its own issues with intermittency

Myth VI – there’s plenty of fissile material in the worldReality: While no immediate supply problems are anticipated, ultimately the world’s stockpiles of fissile material are limited in scale

Myth VII – We can’t build Renewables fast enough only nuclear power plants can be built quickly enough to prevent climate changeReality: The current build rate of nuclear power stations is a small fraction of the annual build rate of renewables, even the maximum ever build rate of NPP’s in the 70′s is still exceeded by the currrent build rate of renewable systems

Myth VIII – Yes, you’ve highlighted several problems but once we get fast reactors working all these problems will be solvedReality: Fast-reactors are a failed series of white elephants that are unlikely to ever work

Myth IX – All these problems will be solved when we develop Fusion, which will happen in the near futureReality: While we’re making progress, its far to early to say when Nuclear Fusion will become commercially viable….if ever!

Myth X – Disposal of nuclear waste is easily solved, in fact we’ve already solved it!Reality: While there are options available, the nuclear industry is not pursing them, this is leading to a gradually worsening problem which needs to be tackled soon

Stop press, Bonus feature! Myth XI – We need to use MOX and reprocessing to stop Terrorists getting their hands on Plutonium in the futureReality: This statement merely shows how out of touch the nuclear industry is…with reality!

So where do I stand? I recognise that nuclear energy can play a part in meeting our future energy needs, but it seems to me like a lot of trouble for not a lot in return. Furthermore we can only use nuclear energy so long as we accept the risks involved, deal with these in as safe a manner as possible and are prepared to pay the financial costs of ensuring reactors and nuclear waste disposal systems are properly managed. We also need to accept the limitations on nuclear power (due to the intermittent nature of electricity demand, limited supplies of nuclear fuels, etc.) and quit wasting time and money on Boondoggles like fast reactors, MOX and mega-sized LWR’s, instead focusing resources on deep geological storage facilities and smaller modular reactors (which while likely more expensive, would probably be a good deal safer, and more practical as the big LWR’s on offer aren’t much use to the many smaller countries around the world).

What worries me is the sort of deluded talk coming out of the nuclear lobby, as the examples above demonstrate. They, and more importantly they’re political cohorts, don’t seem to appreciate the risks, show no intention of dealing with nuclear waste in a responsible way, and reckon someone else (that would be the rest of us) should pick up the tap as far as the costs go. They also show an unhealthy obsession towards failed white elephant projects like fast reactors, spent fuel reprocessing and MOX. They are also prone to overly optimistic delusions about the potential of Thorium or Fusion energy.

To make matters worse those Nuclear Energy supporters in the UK find that the obvious way to finance the safe building and operation of reactors, through state owned companies (as the French do it), conflicts with they’re (largely right wing) politics. Consequently we’re likely to end up with a twisted mess of a situation where we have a privately owned (on paper anyway) nuclear industry which is wholly dependent on various stealth subsidies, but without the sort of controls necessary to ensure proper waste management and safety, nor that the electricity produced (which we will effectively be subsidising) is sold to the public at a reasonable price (the “privately” run nuke industry will be able to charge whatever they like and pocket the money as profit…going to they’re principle shareholder…the French government!). All in all if it’s a case of no more nuclear reactors, or some reactors but ones run by this group of deluded zealots, I’d rather see no more nuclear reactors and a phase out of nuclear energy as soon as possible.

And thus my advice to anyone reading this is, don’t take anything you hear from the nuclear cheerleaders seriously, until that is we start to hear the right sort of policies coming out of the nuclear industry. Nevermind you’re Nuclear renaissance, what we need is a bathroom ceiling painted mat white!


A quick note on references, I’ve included a couple of links to online sources, notably Wikipedia, but I do that primarily because I recognise that anyone reading this is unlikely to have a library handy ;D I would note that my primary sources of information are often good old fashioned books and reports, these include:

Energy by G. J. Aubrecht (an excellent one stop shop for all energy related facts & figures!)

Into the Atomic Age by J. M. Pincher (old and dated, but a gem of a book relating the earlier pioneering days of nuclear energy)

Going Critical: An Unofficial History of British Nuclear Power by W. Patterson

Sustainable Energy without the hot air by G. Mckay (another excellent resource, now online too!)

Cool Energy by Micheal Brower

Civil nuclear energy : fuel of the future or relic of the past? by M. C. Grimston

I also relied on a number of reports from the IEA and REN for my various facts and figures. Archive material from the NRC and the DoE was also utlised.