Thursday, May 21, 2009

A costly choice

It's generally safe to say that the public is being brutally misinformed on a subject when CanWest's reporting stands out as an example of relative balance in a conversation. But after giving Peter Prebble plenty of space yesterday, its series on nuclear power has allowed Prebble and others to point out that the costs of nuclear are high to start with and only tend to go up from there:
Nuclear reactor construction will fall behind schedule by a few years and go over budget by billions of dollars, say experts.

"None of the reactors have ever come in on time or on budget," said Michal Moore, professor of economics with the University of Calgary and senior fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy.

"Cost overruns are consistent across the world," said Peter Prebble, director of energy and water policy for the Saskatchewan Environmental Society and a former provincial NDP cabinet minister.

"We will pay for these cost overruns on our electrical bills."
Delays and ballooning budgets of nuclear projects are responsible for $15 billion of a $20-billion debt left by Ontario Hydro. Residents now pay a tax on electricity bills to pay off the debt.

"That's quite a legacy to leave," said Prebble.

The actual costs of a nuclear reactor go beyond its normal operations.

If the system is shut down, replacement energy has to be found, said Prebble. "You have to have a backup system to replace the lost base load power. That starts to get expensive, especially if you import additional power."
With the high costs and risk associated with nuclear reactors, private industry will only invest in projects that have the financial backing of governments, that have guaranteed profits and markets and that assume the risk and liabilities for cost overruns, waste disposal, decommissioning and accidents, says the Pembina Institute.
Of course, it's that last point which looks most important: any supposed benefit in bringing in private-sector power generation (whether nuclear or otherwise) is obviously illusory if it's ultimately the public who pays the tab if anything doesn't go according to a corporate plan. And with all indications being that Saskatchewan's citizens stand to be left holding the bill for whatever the Sask Party tries to foist on them, there's every reason to make sure that the move toward a nuclear megaproject is stopped at the earliest opportunity.

No comments:

Post a Comment