Energy producers love oil and coal. The markets are already staked out, and the profits flow more and more freely. However we’ve been experiencing some problems, the greatest of which are global warming
and the rising costs of oil, that have caused many a politico to write a brief column on their favorite substitute for oil. Not a whole lot of commentators, but still way too many, are trumpeting the comeback of nuclear. This is dangerous for the obvious reasons. Most Americans took a hardened stance against nuclear after the destruction and near disasters, of the 1980s, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island being the most notable.
Nuclear reactors will never replace more than a piddling of the energy we currently get from oil alone. Unfortunately, the same rules that prevent nuclear’s ascension also threaten a major disaster unless the powers that be are called upon quite strongly to act now. Let me explain.
Nuclear power plants cost billions to build and operate, and tied up with each dollar is oil. Oil is in heavy use, whether that be mining uranium, running a concrete factory, operation of heavy machinery, or running the two backup power generators that law requires a nuclear plant to be equipped with. Thus, as the cost of oil goes up over time, nuclear plants will become more expensive to build and operate, until the cost is simply prohibitive. In that case, we run the risk of nuclear corporations disappearing (that is, going bankrupt) and leaving their inoperable power plants and the toxic waste stored at the facility. And at this point we have to ask whether our government is going to always be there to step in should this happen. What if they are busy with another succession of hardcore hurricanes and flooding? What if the Powers That Be decide to do what the Russian government did and pay a few men a pittance to be guards over hazardous nuclear waste?
Since we can’t be sure what the future will look like, it’s rather incumbent on us to deal with the possibility of nuclear plants not being decommissioned properly and the toxic waste. A slush fund should be set aside by Congress, filled with taxes coming from nuclear plant operators, and designated solely for decommissioning plants and disposing of waste. Maybe bury it in the moon? Maybe put it back where we found it?