The Helen Caldicott Foundation | Jeremy Rifkin: Five (actually 6) reasons why nuclear is not a good business model or the answer to climate change
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Jeremy Rifkin: Five (actually 6) reasons why nuclear is not a good business model or the answer to climate change

Jeremy Rifkin: Five (actually 6) reasons why nuclear is not a good business model or the answer to climate change

Posted by Admin in Articles, News, Nuclear Power, Video

Jeremy Rifkin / Wermuth Asset Management 5th Annual Investor Event. 8 October, 2013 (Post-Fukushima)

Six great talking points.
At the Wermuth Asset Management 5th Annual Investor Event, Jeremy Rifkin responded to the question: What would be your view on nuclear energy with five, actually six, reasons for why nuclear is not an answer to climate change. The number of active plants in the world may go up or down by a couple, the percentage points of nuclear in the energy mix may vary by a few from time to time, but what he says has been true for a long while and it will be true going forward despite any small changes in the numbers. In terms of the money, the cost will only rise.
And one thing he doesn’t say- if nuclear is not a part of the solution to climate change than the enormous amount of money thrown at this dead end technology, and the huge waste of precious time that could be spent on viable solutions make nuclear an active agent in accelerating climate change.
In brief:
1. Nuclear would have to be 20% to have the minimum minimum impact on climate change. That means we’d have to replace the existing 400 nuclear plants and build 1600 additional plants. Three nuclear plants would have to be built every 30 days for 40 years to get to 20% and by that time climate change would have pretty much run its course with us…
2. We still don’t know how to recycle the nuclear waste and we’re seventy years in. Now, we have good engineers in the US. We spent 18 years & $8 billion building an underground vault in Yucca Mountain to store the wastes for 10,000 years. We can’t use it. We can’t even store them…
3. We run into uranium deficits, according to the Department of Atomic Energy Commission, you may know this, between 2025 and 2035 for just the existing 400 plants. So, that means the price goes up.
4. 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.
5. We don’t have the water.
6. 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 distributed, collaborative, and laterally scaled. It’s an old technology.
Jeremy Rifkin responding to the question: What would be your view on nuclear energy? (Wermuth Asset Management 5th Annual Investor Event)
Rough transcript:
Jeremy Rifkin: I don’t spend much time on nuclear technology unless someone asks me about it because frankly I think from a business perspective it’s over, and let me explain why. There may be a lot of ideological issues, but from a business perspective here’s the situation.
Nuclear power was pretty much dead in the water in the 1980’s 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. It’s polluting, but there’s no CO2. Here’s the issue though. The 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, 6% of the energy of the world. These are old nuclear power plants. But our scientists tell us they have a minimum impact on climate change which is the rational for bringing this technology back.
[Reason 1] Nuclear would have to be 20% to have the minimum minimum impact on climate change. That means we’d have to replace the existing 400 nuclear plants and build 1600 additional plants. Three nuclear plants would have to be built every 30 days for 40 years to get to 20% and by that time climate change would have pretty much run its course with us. I think from a business point of view it doesn’t make any sense. I’d be surprised if we replace 100 of the existing plants, which would take us down to 1 or 2% of the energy mix.
[Reason 2] We still don’t know how to recycle the nuclear waste and we’re seventy years in. Now, we have good engineers in the US. We spent 18 years & $8 billion building an underground vault in Yucca Mountain to store the wastes for 10,000 years. We can’t use it. We can’t even store them, because there are cracks in the mountain. But any geologist could have told them that we live on tectonic plates. You can’t keep underground vaults secure.
[Reason 3] We run into uranium deficits, according to the Department of Atomic Energy Commission, you may know this, between 2025 and 2035 for just the existing 400 plants. So, that means the price goes up.
[Reason 4] 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.
[Reason 5] And then, finally, and this is the big one that people don’t realize- we don’t have the water. Over 40% of all the fresh water consumed in France each year goes to cooling the nuclear reactors. It’s almost 50% now. When it comes back it’s heated and it’s dehydrating our agricultural and ecosystems, and it’s threatening our agriculture. So, we don’t have the water. This is true all over the world. We have saltwater nuclear plants. But then you have to put them in coastal regions, and then you risk a Fukushima because of tsunamis and ocean currents.
[Reason 6] And I would say the last thing about this is that nuclear power is centralized power, we’ll talk about this tonight, like fossil fuels. It doesn’t fit a new generation that’s moving with the kind of technologies that are distributed, collaborative, and laterally scaled. It’s an old technology.
So, it’s no accident Siemens is out, Germany is out, Italy is out, Japan is now out. And I think with President Hollande’s reaction, I met with him this spring, they’re moving toward a 3rd Industrial Revolution model in France. I think… I’d be surprised if nuclear has much of a life left. I don’t think it’s a good business deal.

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