The recent argument for nuclear power has been that it is the only large-scale energy source that is economically competitive with fossil fuels and that won’t contribute to global warming. But as the horrible disaster in Japan is making clear, nuclear energy comes with many hidden costs.
These are already manifest in the government insurance that is necessary to raise capital to build reactors and in the government responsibility for nuclear waste disposal. Add to this the government responsibility for the costs of disaster management and recovery and for decommissioning ruined reactors, not to mention whatever dollar amount you want to assign to the lives lost or ruined in disasters, and the real costs soar.
Fossil fuels also have the hidden costs of climate change, which will likely dwarf those of nuclear power, as well as the costs of oil spills and other disasters and myriad government subsidies.
If all of these hidden costs were factored in, we might find that renewables are by far the cheapest source of energy.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Smart Letters: The Cost of Energy
Free-marketeers who poo-poo renewable energy never ever ever discuss the costs to society that are never borne by the energy industry. Kenneth Miller of New York City lays them out succinctly. (It's the last letter on the page.) This is why subsidizing the oil industry is sheer madness and subsidizing renewable energy is sound policy. Vitally important, in fact.