(The weekly R-Town News goes to over 400 Saskatchewan communities.)
By Jim Harding.
When you follow nuclear industry claims over decades you become a bit “philosophical” about all the spin. During the supposed “nuclear boom” of the 1980s, the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) predicted there would be 1,000 Gigawatts (GW) capacity worldwide by 1990. The actual amount was 260 GW – revealing a 400 % exaggeration factor. Two decades later the global capacity is still only 372 GW. Most revealing, even with all the hype about a “nuclear renaissance”, the IAEA’s 2008 prediction was for only between 447 and 679 GW by 2030. Indications are it will be even lower, for since 2005 the proportion of electrical supply from nuclear worldwide has slipped to 14% from 16%. The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects it “will drop from 15 percent in 2006 to 10 percent in 2030.”
If our politicians would stop accepting as “fact” the pronuclear “news” fed to the big city dailies by the industry, and take time to read something like the “World Nuclear Industry Status Report” published in the Nov./Dec. 2008 prestigious Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists , they’d find that we may be entering a period of nuclear phase-out. But politicians, too, live behind the Uranium Curtain.
The “Nuclear Status Report” includes an analysis of how many nuclear plants would be required for the industry to hold its existing share of the market. A very generous assumption was made that the 439 existing plants can be kept running for 40 years through expensive refurbishing. (The 119 plants already decommissioned only averaged 22 years). It was found that in addition to 20 plants under construction with a start-up date, there’d have to be 70 more plants on-line in six years (2015) and another 192 by 2025. Building 262 new plants by 2025 would require one new plant every one and one-half months to 2015 and every 18 days after that to 2025. It’s not going to happen!
The Uranium Development Partnership (UDP), however, wants to perpetuate the “nuclear bubble”. What it calls “potential new nuclear capacity additions by 2020” is based on very tardy and manipulative “research”. It lists only 31 plants actually under construction, anywhere, and if you check the “Nuclear Status Report” you’ll find 11 of these have been under construction for more than 20 years. This is called “stacking the statistics.” The UDP then combines “anticipated” with “planned” reactors, a very unreliable category, to squeeze out 173 more possible plants. This includes 35 for North America, which is very farfetched, and an extreme example of the “400 % exaggeration factor”, for a recent assessment in the wake of the credit crunch and growing U.S. opposition to further nuclear loan guarantees, has only 3 new plants by 2015.
In small print we find the UDP’s sources include “press releases” and “nuclear industry publications”. We should rightly ask how, with $3 million funding from the public, the UDP was able to avoid doing original research prior to making recommendations now being brought to public “consultations”. Perhaps, since its 2009 recommendations are identical to those made back in 1991 in an AECL-commissioned report, the UDP didn’t feel it had anything new to learn.
The 1991 report, by the way, said, “From a strong uranium mining base, there is excellent potential for developing other areas of the nuclear fuel cycle in Saskatchewan, particularly enrichment, electrical generation, and used fuel storage”. Sound familiar? Is it “back to the future”?
( Jim Harding is a retired professor of environmental and justice studies. He writes a column "Saskatchewan Sustainability" for the weekly R-Town News chain. )