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Also published on No Cure for That.
Last week President Obama announced an $8.3 billion loan of taxpayer dollars for the construction of two new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia. He has also proposed tripling the loans for new nuclear reactors to $54 billion in his 2011 budget.
In his announcement he argued, “To meet our growing energy needs and prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we’ll need to increase our supply of nuclear power. It’s that simple.”
Sadly, Mr. Obama is mistaken on all points.
If by “we” the President means to speak on behalf of his Wall St. advisers and the industrial capitalist system he represents, “our” energy needs are not growing. They’re shrinking along with the economy. And while preventing the worst consequences of climate change is necessary, nuclear power is not. It’s not necessary by any stretch of the imagination.
Here are 5 simple reasons why nuclear is not a sustainable solution to the energy woes of the 21st Century:
1. Nuclear is Too Expensive.
In economic hard times such as ours, we need cheap, readily-available sources of energy to create jobs and keep the lights on. Nuclear is the opposite. Nuclear reactors require billions of dollars of government subsidies just to be built, because no private investor wants to throw their money into an expensive and dangerous project that might never produce a return.
To grab those government subsidies, nuclear companies regularly low-ball their price tags, knowing they’ll have to beg for more money later and that the feds will always give in. The recent TIME article “Why Obama’s Nuclear Bet Won’t Pay Off” explains:
If you want to understand why the U.S. hasn’t built a nuclear reactor in three decades, the Vogtle power plant outside Atlanta is an excellent reminder of the insanity of nuclear economics. The plant’s original cost estimate was less than $1 billion for four reactors. Its eventual price tag in 1989 was nearly $9 billion, for only two reactors. But now there’s widespread chatter about a nuclear renaissance, so the Southern Co. is finally trying to build the other two reactors at Vogtle. The estimated cost: $14 billion. And you can be sure that number is way too low, because nuclear cost estimates are always way too low.
Environment America’s report, “Generating Failure: How Building Nuclear Power Plants Would Set America Back in the Race Against Global Warming”, explains nuclear’s faulty economics further:
Market forces have done far more to damage nuclear power than anti-nuclear activists ever did. The dramatic collapse of the nuclear industry in the early 1980s – described by Forbes magazine as the most expensive debacle since the Vietnam War – was caused in large measure by massive cost overruns driven by expensive safety upgrades after the Three Mile Island accident revealed shortcomings in nuclear plant design. These made nuclear power plants far more expensive than they were supposed to be. Some U.S. power companies were driven into bankruptcy and others spent years restoring their balance sheets.
At the end of the day, there are much cheaper and better ways to produce energy. The TIME article points out, “Recent studies have priced new nuclear power at 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, about four times the cost of producing juice with new wind or coal plants, or 10 times the cost of reducing the need for electricity through investments in efficiency.”
Instead of pouring billions of dollars into something the market wants to keep its distance from, why not spend that money on efficiency improvements or wind and solar, for which there is a growing market and massive public support?
2. Nuclear is Too Inefficient.
A big part of why nuclear is so expensive is that it’s incredibly inefficient as an energy source, requiring a high proportion of energy inputs as compared to what it produces in output. Between the cost of building the plants and equipment (tons of steel, concrete, and intricate machinery), mining the uranium, enriching the uranium, operating under stringent safety regulations, disposing the radioactive waste, and eventually decommissioning the plants, there is a tremendous about of energy and money poured in to nuclear reactors, making the energy they produce proportionaly less impressive than is often touted. Read the rest of this entry »
Review also posted on The Rag Blog.
Review of Men’s Work: How to Stop the Violence That Tears Our Lives Apart
by Paul Kivel
Ballantine Books, 1992
Paul Kivel, cofounder of the Oakland Men’s Project, has given all men (and those concerned about them) a tremendous gift in the form of this inspirational book. This Valentine’s Day, let us accept this gift so that we might heal our relationships to the ones we love and to ourselves.
Men’s Work draws on Kivel’s decades of experience in the movement to end male violence, along with his life experiences as a father, son, partner, and friend, to speak about the trauma and feelings of powerlessness men experience to in our capitalist, patriarchal society. He describes how men reproduce this system by hurting women, trans folks, children, and themselves.
He explains that this is crisis cannot be solved by locking up male offenders, because this will only cause more violence and trauma. Instead, Kivel has devoted his life to helping men understand the roots of their behavior so that they might change, to become more caring and compassionate. One helpful way he approaches these roots is through the “Act Like a Man” box, which shows how patriarchal masculinity limits and hurts men:
men…………………………. men are…
yell at people………………. aggressive
have no emotions………… responsible
get good grades………….. mean
stand up for themselves… bullies
don’t cry……………………. tough
don’t make mistakes…….. angry
know about sex………….. successful
take care of people………. strong
don’t back down…………. in control
push people around…….. active
can take it………………… dominant over women
All men have received this male training, and know that when they step outside these boundaries they will face abuse, scorn, name-calling, accusations of homosexuality or femininity, or violence. The fear of this abuse is ultimately what keeps us inside the Box.
Paul relates, “It is not an irrational fear. This fear in me was built by getting beaten up after school by some older kid in the neighborhood who didn’t like me, by being teased and called names because sometimes I cried after I got beaten up. This fear was built by all the times my dad put me down because I wasn’t good enough in sports., at school, or whatever he decided was the standard that day.” Hearing a man brave enough to tell these kinds of stories was empowering and validated my own experiences.
The book also includes a wealth of activities that the Oakland Men’s Project developed to help men think about violence, masculinity, abuse and privilege, so that they might change their behavior. Read the rest of this entry »
Short video that avoids the word capitalism but nevertheless sheds some light on the system. Too bad it doesn’t get deeper into the impoverishing of humanity or the destruction of the planet, which are so glaring, but so hidden. We need to understand the ways the system is killing life if we’re to have any chance of creating a society that values life.
Douglas Rushkoff is author of the book Life Inc. – How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back.
Yesterday, President Obama announced his new $3.8 Trillion budget proposal, including about a trillion dollars for war and military, including increasing expenditure on Nuclear Weapons by $7 billion! Nuclear weapons? Really? That’s the change we can believe in?
[update 2/5: I should also mention the completely misguided funding of nuclear power plants as well, see Obama's Nuclear Giveaway]
This news came alongside an announced “spending freeze”, which would exclude military/war and only affect social programs, like jobs, housing, education and health care. These are precisely the programs which need to be dramatically increased in this economic crisis, not frozen. This proposed freeze would last 3 years, meaning for the rest of Obama’s term in office we could see no new spending on any of the social programs that are desperately needed. The poor, the middle and working classes, and everyone who has hope for a more compassionate United States is essentially being locked out in the cold.
Candidate Obama himself campaigned against exactly such an “across the board spending freeze,” as we may recall if we can muster our memories back through one year of hazy distractions (luckily Youtube never forgets):
If they’re so interested in reducing spending, why not cut totally useless and destructive programs – like NUCLEAR WEAPONS?
Why is Obama backsliding on all of his campaign promises? It just so happens that even though there’s no sane use of additional nuclear weapons (the US stockpile is already over 10,000 warheads, and the Cold War is over), nuclear weapons corporations like Lockheed Martin spend millions of dollars to lobby politicians for this funding anyway. And sadly, they’re getting it because Obama is afraid of the Republicans.
Once again we are seeing the continued march towards war, death and neo-fascism. The needs of the population – from decent jobs and housing, affordable education and health care, to a healthy environment – are being denied in order to protect corporate and financial interests.
Here’s Democracy Now! with the nuclear weapons story, and an article from Norman Solomon on the spending freeze below:
As part of a record $3.8 trillion budget proposal, the Obama administration is asking Congress to increase spending on the US nuclear arsenal by more than $7 billion over the next five years. Obama is seeking the extra money despite a pledge to cut the US arsenal and seek a nuclear weapons-free world. The proposal includes large funding increases for a new plutonium production facility in Los Alamos, New Mexico. We speak with Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch of New Mexico. Watch video.
This isn’t “defense.”
The new budget from the White House will push U.S. military spending well above $2 billion a day.
Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it.
“Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors,” the New York Times reports this morning (February 2).
It isn’t defense to preclude new domestic initiatives for a country that desperately needs them: for healthcare, jobs, green technologies, carbon reduction, housing, education, nutrition, mass transit . . . Read the rest of this entry »