Do you wonder why the nuclear power industry needs government insurance? Why they need government loan guarantees just to build the plants?
It’s simple. Without the Price-Anderson Act, without the taxpayer-funded construction loan guarantees Obama wants to triple, nobody who hires professional actuaries will touch the nuclear industry. Actuaries assess risk, as we all do every time we cross a street or get on a plane. We do it by gut feelings. Professional actuaries use statistics based on actual past risk.
And nobody who hires professional actuaries will touch the nuclear industry.
But we have no choice, people say. We need the energy.
We do have a choice. Look at some brief stats on what’s possible by 2050: Solar could provide 100% of our energy needs. Efficiency could reduce needs by 50% without affecting standard of living. (Links and calcs here, and here.) Nuclear could satisfy some 15% of our energy needs if we build a new gigawatt plant every six weeks (pdf). Even with guarantees tripled to $54 billion, that only provides some nine plants. That buys about a year’s worth of plants. Then we need to do it again. And again. And again. Every year for 39 years. And money spent on nuclear energy can’t be spent on real solutions.
(In case you’re wondering why nukes get built at all, remember that it funnels billions to huge corporations now. The fact that it doesn’t solve any of our problems ten years from now is not their concern. I think we’ve seen that movie a couple of times recently.)
But nuclear is safe, people say. It’s safer than driving a car.
Well, sure. The difference is that if a car crashes, in the worst case it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses and lost wages. If a nuclear plant has a disaster, it means total ruin. Yes, the chance of nuclear disaster is very low. But given the costs if it happens, even the hugest insurance or energy companies would go bankrupt. Nobody who knows the meaning of the numbers thinks the risk is worth it. Even the nuclear industry doesn’t think it’s worth it. They’ll take any profit, but they won’t build without someone else to take on the risk.
So you, Jane and Joe Taxpayer, get to do it. It gets worse. You’re not only on the hook for billions in insurance and construction loan guarantees. The industry are pretty much the ones who’ve decided how much money will be needed, so the estimates are, shall we say, rosy. Guess who’s on the hook for all the rest of the costs? That’s right. You.
You are the insurer and guarantor of last resort for the nuclear industry.
I guess that model worked so well in the banking industry, it’s a good idea to do it again.
nuclear, loan guarantees, Obama