Economic feasibility of nuclear power

Ethics of Nuclear Energy  Abu-Dayyeh (P.hD) Amman – H.K. of Jordan E_case Society (President)  [Extract]

“…..3- Economic feasibility:

Estimates of Chernobyl catastrophe economic damage are briefed as follows:

The human and economic costs are enormous: In the first 25 years, the direct economic damage to Belarus, Ukraine and Russia has exceeded $500 billion” (32)Has this cost been added to the price of KWh of electricity in the USSR?

Examples of some fairly costly nuclear accidents around the world are numerous, we hereby give one example from one county; the USA, since 1979:

Only these minor accidents in the United States alone had caused more than 7 billion dollars in direct damages only in the past 30 years, a fraction compared to what Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents has inflicted on theirs countries. The ethical questions that we wish to raise here are as follows:

Has the cost of short term damage and that on the long term (radioactive pollution, species mutations, etc) been added to the cost of each KW.h of electricity produced from nuclear reactors?

Is economical cost-analysis the only means to address such delicate issues concerning our moral judgment that can eventually affect the future of life on Earth?

To what extent it might be possible to reinforce a mandatory rule of multiplying the cost of nuclear power by an “Environmental Energy Factor” to account for the probable long term potential damage it can inflict on nature and the “built environment”?

Is there no value for intrinsic beauty in nature; a value for nature per se that reflects our aesthetic feeling of duty?

Accidents has proved that safety is a far-fetched dream in nuclear energy, not to mention that the nuclear energy industry has been crippled worldwide, particularly after Fukushima, except in China, Russia, South Korea and India(34). It has become obvious that these countries have given a priority for growth over health and security; severe competition and injustice over equity; profit over humanity; egoism over utilitarianism! The USA, for example, spent 7,960 US$ in 2009 on total health expenditure, double to triple the overall spending of these four countries altogether on health care per capita (S. Korea $1879, Russia $1043, China $347, India $124).

The extra safety regulations and increasing risks after Fukushima and the consequent jump in insurance rates and loan guarantees has rendered the cost of producing electricity uncompetitive compared even to the low cost gas turbine generator. Nuclear energy has already been the most expensive source of energy in 2007, as Moody illustrates in figure 1:  [on original]

A more up to date study surveyed 30 nuclear cost-analyses which showed that the industry-funded studies fall into “conflict of interest” and have illegitimately trimmed cost data; “They exclude costs of full-liability insurance, underestimate interest rates and construction times by using ‘overnight’ costs, and overestimate load factors and reactor lifetimes. If these trimmed costs are included, nuclear-generated electricity can be shown roughly 6 times more expensive than most studies claim(36).

This extra cost had been included in the cost of electricity in Japan that is why the cost of Japanese electricity per KW.h is 5 times that in the United States. Research suggests that if a full-cost pricing system for nuclear electricity is considered, Corporate Capital will leave Japan (37).

The huge capital costs and loan guarantees for nuclear power plants, as shown figure 1, were provided by governments in the past. Since the privatization of electricity companies worldwide by the turn of the century, few countries have ventured in this investment except for either military purposes or for strategic energy security.

It is not a secret that all nuclear facilities started for the purpose of producing nuclear weapons; electricity was a mere by-product then. Nowadays, it has become a profitable industry for the know-how elite, such as France, Russia and South Korea. President Lee Myung-Bak of South Korea announced that he has set a goal of exporting 80 nuclear reactors by 2030 (38); but one wonders why would oil-rich countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates venture into such high risk industry?

If alternatives to the shortly predicted depletion of fossil fuels is the reason for a nuclear era, it can still be rejected on the bases of the renewable clean sources of energy available at cheaper, safer and more sustainable solutions, particularly as uranium reserves are expected to run out at approximately the same time as fossil fuels; an issue discussed in details later. Then, there must be more of reasons to “risk” the danger!

If we would avoid discussing political motivations to answer the latter question, such as Shiaa Iran nuclear weapons versus Sunni Arab nuclear capabilities, something similar to Buddhist India versus Moslem Pakistan, and move on directly to socio-economic analysis, we then say:

Risk is seldom taken unless associated with benefit. In risk management three parties are involved: those exposed to the risk, the decision maker and the beneficiary(39). The moral stances towards the risk depend on whether one person in filling more than one position or not? If that person is both the decision maker and the beneficiary then the moral decision will be biased and the players more corrupt.

This is exactly the general case in under developed countries where individualism and instrumental reason prevail over ethical responsibility and the feeling of duty; that is why egoist ethics in the South prevails while utilitarian ethics dominates moral actions in the democratic North!….”

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