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The Nuclear Option

So we’re all biting our nails, waiting to see what’s going to happen with the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. And as we’re watching the devastation we can see, and anticipating the potential devastation that lies ahead, we’re justifiably discussing the merits and pitfalls of nuclear energy.

Here are some facts about nuclear energy that you may or may not know.

Banks won’t finance the nuclear power plants in America, unless the federal government guarantees the loan. Banks aren’t willing to take the risk. They don’t want to risk the massive cost overruns that are inevitable in constructing nuclear power plants. They also don’t want the litigation risks.

You know how Wall Street was happy, willing, and able to trade crap ass mortgages for ten years? Yeah, well they won’t touch nuclear power plants. What does that tell you?

So in order to build a nuclear power plant in this country, your taxpayer dollars have to back the project because financial industry analysts don’t believe they can make money on them. They don’t believe that the ratio of risk to reward is worth the trouble. Speaking of risk to reward, you must be asking yourself, “What do I get for guaranteeing the loan?”. Good question! The answer is that you don’t get jack shit because even though the federal government is guaranteeing the loan, they still award contracts to companies to build the power plants. So the company gets the contract and collects the profits without taking on a single dime of liability.

Sounds like an awesome racket to get into, right? It gets better. A nuclear power plant costs between $5B and $8B to build. Now once it’s built, do you think there’s an insurance company on the planet that’s willing to insure the fucking thing? NO! That would be batshit crazy! We know that banks and insurance companies are greedy, reckless, and morally bankrupt, but they’re not batshit crazy. So guess who takes on all of the liability when something goes wrong? If you guessed ‘you’ you’d be right! You’re poor, from being repeatedly robbed, but right! And since we the taxpayers cover any liability that may arise from an accident at the nuclear power plant, if you ever needed to sue for medical costs, you would essentially be suing yourself.

So if a bank isn’t willing to touch a nuclear power plant, and Wall Street isn’t willing to touch a nuclear power plant, and insurance companies like AIG (who will historically insure God damned anything) aren’t willing to touch it, wouldn’t one think that perhaps nuclear power is a bad idea?

Yes this is clearly a dumbass idea, which means that our government will naturally pursue it to the tune of $36B. Actually, it’s $54.5B if you add the $36B that Obama wants to add to the $18.5B that wasn’t spent out of the last budget.

Does any of this sound good to anyone? Forget what’s happening in Japan for a moment. Does using tax payer money to fund and guarantee a venture that is too dangerous for even Wall Street to gamble on sound reasonable to anyone?

Even people who purport to be pro-nuclear energy, back way the fuck off when the conversation turns to building one in their back yard.

Now I’m ready to bring the Japanese crisis into this post. Those socialist, statist, Marxist motherfuckers have building codes that are far stricter than anything we have here in America. It took an 8.9 magnitude earthquake to trigger a nuclear meltdown. We have two nuclear power plants in southern California, sitting on a fucking fault line! Those two plants can allegedly withstand earthquakes up to a 7.4 magnitude. Just so you’re clear, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake is roughly 1/15th as strong as an 8.9. Does that sound good to anyone?

Another issue is nuclear waste. We still don’t know what to do with it. Yes, we’ve figured out a way to reuse some of it but there’s still waste. France encases it in concrete and buries it. But the problem with that is that concrete eventually breaks down, even if it’s not covering uranium. Have you ever seen an industrial building that has been abandoned for a few years? Concrete needs to be maintained in order to hold its integrity so the French are going to be digging up and reburying nuclear waste in perpetuity.

I say that we spend that $54.5B on subsidizing green energy startups to develop things like the Bloom Box or more efficient solar and wind solutions. We need to stop spending our resources on energy supplies that are killing us. Whether it’s the slow death that comes with carbon emissions, or widespread death that would result from a nuclear meltdown.

There will be nuclear meltdowns. That’s an absolute certainty. So we should ask ourselves how many meltdowns make nuclear power worth it. Is one meltdown every hundred years acceptable? We know that the radiation lingers for a couple of decades, so we’re talking about elevated cancer rates for two generations of families within a couple of hundred miles. Is one every two hundred years acceptable? I’ve already seen two in my lifetime, so I find it pretty unlikely that two hundred meltdown-free years is possible. If it were, it would require a shitload of regulation and maintenance. Do you trust our government to regulate the shit out of the energy industry? Or do you trust the company running the plant to voluntarily make costly maintenance investments? Pro-nuclear republicans suddenly have so much new found faith in the government they hate, that they trust it to keep nuclear power plants safe?

Remember, Three Mile Island happened because of user error. Chernobyl happened because there weren’t enough containment measures in place. Are you so confident that it won’t happen here?

Nothing about nuclear power makes sense to me. The first nuclear power plant went live in 1954. It’s time to move past 1950s solutions. The advances we’ve made since then are staggering. Proponents of nuclear power operate under the assumption that we can’t come up with something more efficient. And they’re using their iPhones to say so, in their Facebook status updates.

I say, bullshit! ¬†We can innovate if we decide that we’re going to. Look, we got computers in our homes in the 90s as a direct result of all the money that Reagan dumped into defense in the 80s. Those billions of dollars spend in R & D shrank the microchip down to a workable size.

If we get serious and we throw serious money at the problem, we can solve it once and for all. We always have.