Economist, author, and advisor to governments Jeremy Rifkin told an agent of the world's largest uranium field operator at a conference of global investors that there's no business future in nuclear power.
Here's the video, followed by more transcript and discussion.
Nuclear power was pretty well dead in the water in the 1980s after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. It had a comeback. The comeback was the industry said "we are part of the solution for climate change because we don't emit CO2 with nuclear; it's polluting, but there's no CO2".
Here's the issue though,
all of our scientific projections are interesting on this. Nuclear power right now is 6% of the energy of the world. There are only 400 nuclear power plants and they rely on 6% of the energy of the world. These are old nuclear plants.
But our scientists tell us to have a minimum impact on climate change, which was the whole rationale for bringing this technology back, nuclear would have to be 20% of the energy mix to have the minimum impact on climate change. That means we would have to replace the existing 400 nuclear plants and build 1600 additional plants. 3 nuclear plants have to be built every 30 days for 40 years to get to 20% and by that time climate change would have run its course for us.
Currently, according to Plans For New Reactors Worldwide by World Nuclear Association, about 60 new reactors are being built, nowhere near the number Rifkin indicates would be needed to have much effect on climate change. And the first new reactors permitted in the U.S. in 30 years, at Plant Vogtle on the Savannah River, just slipped from 15 to 19 months late.
So I think from a business point of view, I just don't see that investment. I'd be surprised if we replace 100 of the 400 existing plants which would take us down to 1 or 2% of the energy.
Number two, we still don't know how to recycle the nuclear waste, and we're seventy years in. Now we have good engineers in the U.S. and we've spent 18 years and $8 billion building an underground vault in Yucca Mountain to store the waste for 10,000 years, we can't use it. We can't even store them, it's already no good because there are cracks in the mountain. But any geologist could have told them we live on tectonic plates. You can't keep underground faults secure.
Number four, we could do what the French generation of new plants are doing and recycle the uranium to plutonium, but then we have plutonium all over the world in an age of uncertainty and terrorism.
And then finally, and this is the big one that people don't realize, we don't have the water. Over forty percent of all the fresh water consumed in France each year goes to cooling the nuclear reactors; it's almost fifty percent now. When it comes back it's heated and it's dehydrating our agriculture and ecosystems and it's threatening our agriculture. And we don't have the water, this is true all over the world.
We have salt water nuclear plants, but then you have to put them on coastal regions and you risk a Fukushima because of tsunamis and ocean currents.
And the last thing on this, I would say is that nuclear power is centralized power ... like fossil fuels, it doesn't fit a new generation that's moving with the kind of technologies that are distributive, collaborative and laterally scaled. It's an old technology. It's no accident that Siemens is out, Germany is out, Italy is out, Japan is now out. And I think with President Hollande's election they're moving toward a third industrial revolution model in France.
I'd be surprised if nuclear has much of a life left. I don't think it's a good business deal.
I strongly suspect Jeremy Rifkin knew who the questioner was, as he told the principal research investment agent of the world's largest uranium field operator that there's no business investment future in nuclear power.
Here is Jeremy Rifkin saying the same things in a TV interview, Nuclear power in France : Jeremy Rifkin's point of view. And here's a transcript of him again on a radio show, Diane Rehm WAMU 88.5 27 September 2011, Jeremy Rifkin: "The Third Industrial Revolution". Same points every time to support the same thesis: nuke is over.
PS: Owed to Laura Lynch.