I used to research nuclear waste siting. Now I’ve gotten interested in Monbiot’s carbon-based nuclear proliferation.
The BBC’s “Nuclear Power Mapped” feature.
In Kolya Abramsky’s edited volume “Sparking A Worldwide Energy Revolution: Social Struggles in the Transition to a Post-petrol World” (2010, AK Press), a number of the contributors address nuclear energy’s history, impact and prospects for expansion, including chapters on nuclear-fossil industry collusion in the UK & EU, a chapter called “Japan as a Plutonium Superpower” (ouch.), the 2005 US-India nuclear deal, & peak uranium,
and a chapter by Peer Rijk that discusses the extent and whys of the US and global decline of nuclear energy:
Hints you already knew:
1) The $5 billion construction pricetag per reactor (There were 439 units across the world in 2008) is worsened by an automatic tendency for construction costs to balloon a la the defense industry;
2) The long length of time it takes to build reactors (10 – 20+ years) isn’t an advantage over developing clean renewable energy technology;
3) Like defense industry, nuclear reactors require billions of dollars of state subsidy over the whole lifetime of the reactor;
4) The reactors only last 40 years–then it’s another $400 million per reactor for upgrades;
5) Nuclear energy is a “lock-in” technology–because of the massive and continuing sunk costs of nuclear technology, building nuclear reactors has been shown to prevent investment in clean renewable energy and conservation;
6) Nuclear reactors spew really unhealthful radiation when under stress from climate change and other natural disasters endemic to living on a planet;
7) For all human intents and purposes, such radiation doesn’t go away;
8) Because nuclear energy has always been tied up with nuclear weapons proliferation, nuclear reactor proliferation encourages imperial nations to prosecute war on their nuclear-using enemies. Et cetera.
Since 3 Mile Island, 110 orders for nuclear reactors were cancelled in the US alone. At the end of 2008, there were 5 fewer units than at the 2002 peak of 444 nuclear reactors around the world. The current average age for nuclear reactors is 23 years. 117 reactors have been permanently shut down.
The World Information Service on Energy (WISE) will probably have a count of the countries that have abandoned nukes or put a halt to reactors. They have PDFs of their “Nuclear Monitor” newsletter.