Jeremy Rifkin: Five (actually 6) reasons why nuclear is not a good business model or the answer to climate change

At the Wermuth Asset Management 5th Annual Investor Event, Jeremy Rifkin responded to the question: What would be your view on nuclear energy with five, actually six, reasons for why nuclear is not an answer to climate change. The number of active plants in the world may go up or down by a couple, the percentage points of nuclear in the energy mix may vary by a few from time to time, but what he says has been true for a long while and it will be true going forward despite any small changes in the numbers. In terms of the money, the cost will only rise.

And one thing he doesn't say- if nuclear is not a part of the solution to climate change than the enormous amount of money thrown at this dead end technology, and the huge waste of precious time that could be spent on viable solutions make nuclear an active agent in accelerating climate change.

In brief:

1. Nuclear would have to be 20% to have the minimum minimum impact on climate change. That means we’d have to replace the existing 400 nuclear plants and build 1600 additional plants. Three nuclear plants would have to be built every 30 days for 40 years to get to 20% and by that time climate change would have pretty much run its course with us...

2. We still don’t know how to recycle the nuclear waste and we’re seventy years in. Now, we have good engineers in the US. We spent 18 years & $8 billion building an underground vault in Yucca Mountain to store the wastes for 10,000 years. We can’t use it. We can’t even store them...

3. We run into uranium deficits, according to the Department of Atomic Energy Commission, you may know this, between 2025 and 2035 for just the existing 400 plants. So, that means the price goes up. 

4. We could do what the French generation of new plants are doing and recycle the uranium to plutonium. But then we have plutonium all over the world in an age of uncertainty and terrorism.

5. We don’t have the water.

6. Nuclear power is centralized power, like fossil fuels. It doesn’t fit a new generation that’s moving with the kind of technologies that are distributed, collaborative, and laterally scaled. It’s an old technology.

Click to read full transcript

Stop the Great Lakes Nuclear Waste Dump

Michael Leonardi l EcoWatch 3 July, 2013

July 1 marks Canada Day when many Canadians celebrate the unification of three colonies into their country on the same date in 1867. In Ontario, droves of people head off to their summer cottages and vacation get-a-ways on the shores of the Great Lakes for the holiday weekend. Lake Huron’s sandy beaches and beautiful aquamarine waters attract many visitors from all over the world. But this year, many First Nations were not celebrating the stripping of their sovereignty rights and desecration of their lands...

Tennessee Awaits Tons Of German Nuclear Waste

What has happened to the old NPR? The NPR that, when faced with a story like this would have asked in more than passing fashion- can you ask a company town if it likes what the company is doing and expect an honest answer? One who would have suggested that, as the cold war sites seek to re-invent themselves in a world increasingly doubtful about the safety and expense of the nuclear weapons program, rather than superior knowledge of radiation (which they may have) it is complacency and self-interest which makes them scoff at the idea of danger.

Oakridge may want the world's radioactive waste, but are they capable of handling it, and is incineration truly being conducted safely? More than money, and the jockeying for position post-Fukushima should be taken into account. As NFS is finding out in Erwin, another age old TN nuclear town, claiming that everything is fine in a community that has air monitors on every other corner, shipping containers of radioactive dirt stacked next to buildings, a river so polluted that dogs have died from swimming in it, and radiation warning signs posted in backyards next to swing sets where children play, may not be enough. Residents who, despite assurances that all will be well, are dying of cancers have leveled a class action suit asking for damages, and answers.

The nuclear industry is clinging to its old ways and false promises of cheap, safe, inexpensive energy while the cost in human health and to the environment rises, and the economic price tag goes off the charts. The nuclear giants invest in renewable energy companies, but not in themselves, or their own need to find a safe way to store the waste they have been producing for decades. What does that say about nuclear? The industry lacks the confidence to take responsibility for the mess they have made in the entire fuel cycle, passing it all off to taxpayers. Why should we feel any more confidence than they do? We should, as they are, invest our dollars, and hopes in renewable energy. We should practice efficiency and demand that others do also. We need to say we are ready to change. The reactor fleet around the world is aging. If we do not want Fukushima to become the norm, rather than the awful exception we need to act soon. 


The city of Oak Ridge, Tenn., is anticipating the arrival of nearly 1,000 tons of nuclear waste from Germany. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a plan in June for an American company to import and burn low-level nuclear waste from Germany.

Radioactive residue left over from the process will be sent back to Germany for disposal, but opponents have voiced concerns that the U.S. will become the world's radioactive waste processor.

But, very little of that opposition is coming from Oak Ridge.

Read full text

Old Soviet Nuclear Site in Asia Has Unlikely Sentinel: The U.S.

With eyes turning towards Fukushima, the question of radioactive waste has become real to a lot more people. As spent fuel pools in Japan threaten the environment and human health across the northern hemisphere, waste from nuclear energy is again on everyone's mind. This is essential. The waste from nuclear energy production has become, in itself, a weapon aimed at the future. The trigger has been pulled, and there is no known way to retract it.

But we cannot forget the other waste, from nuclear weapons testing and production. This waste, lying around in abandoned sites across Russia and the former Soviet Union States, at Hanford and Savannah River Site (among others) in the U.S., around the world in aging casks and old underground tunnels, this waste is now a danger that could prove as dangerous as the weapons, that we must clean up or suffer the consequences.

That the U.S. is now safeguarding the former Soviet Union's nuclear waste is poetic justice, even if their motives are opaque. If they cannot come together in the pursuit of world peace, at least there is some cooperation in the attempt to avoid world destruction. 

ELLEN BARRY l NYTimes l 21 May, 2011

KURCHATOV, Kazakhstan — Twenty years after the Soviet Union collapsed and tens of thousands of soldiers abandoned their posts at this remote site in northeasternKazakhstan, the footprints of another great power — the United States — are increasingly visible.

The United States Defense Department has paid for aerial drones to spot intruders, and for motion detectors that signal when a person, or a horse or a car, crosses into restricted territory. The classified project aims to keep terrorists away from what the Soviets left behind in patches of earth and a warren of tunnels that they used for atomic testing: among other things, plutonium and highly enriched uranium that Western scientists fear could be used to build an improvised nuclear device.

Protecting this material has meant teasing out nuclear secrets that have been kept for decades. Russia is warily sharing archival material about Soviet-era tests, and the United States is paying to remove or secure weapons-grade material. Kazakhstan is providing the labor, but because it is not a nuclear power, its officials are forbidden from learning exactly what it is that they are guarding.

Read full text

Will giant mixers keep nuclear waste stable?

The story of Hanford is increasingly becoming the nation's cautionary tale of the consequences of dark dreams and military ambition. Eight hundred plus acres of sacrificed land and contaminated water. Its toxic fingers reaching again towards the last free flowing stretch of the Columbia River, where Hanford's deadly radioactive legacy can already be measured. As the slow negotiation of the clean-up continues, it seems we have learned nothing from the many accidents, missteps, and mistakes that have already been made, discovered, and sometimes reburied- literally. Beneath dump truck loads of dirt and rock merely to move elsewhere, through the soil, the air, and the ground water.

If we have learned anything from Hanford it is the cost of a clean up done improperly. So, while it is no surprise that construction continues despite firm evidence that safety requirements have not been met, what is happening AGAIN at Hanford with the "pulse-jet mixers" bodes ill for the future. Not only of Washington State and Oregon its downstream neighbor, but of Washington DC where policy makers continue to show a greater commitment to their contract with business partners, than to their contract with America to govern for the long-term good of the country, its land and its people.

Seattle Times l Craig Welch  22 January, 2011

RICHLAND — It sounds like a sci-fi thriller: Dangerous gases build up in a giant drum of nuclear waste. It explodes and spews contamination, threatening workers or the public. Or it cripples a facility that cost taxpayers $12.2 billion.

It could happen at Hanford's nuclear-waste-disposal plant — if radioactive material isn't kept stirred.

So engineers years ago proposed a solution. Inside the plant's giant drums they would put pumps that work like giant turkey basters. Using air and suction, they would slurp up and spit out radioactive sludge to keep it constantly churned.

But despite hundreds of millions of tax dollars and nearly a decade of effort, builders haven't proved these "pulse-jet mixers" will work — and work safely...

Read full text


College students in Pennsylvania housed in Pentagon nuclear waste site

Shocking lack of concern for public safety in Pennsylvania as environmental officials conceal results of report showing "significant public health concerns." Report aptly named, "Not for Public Release." Bill Keisling has made a film documenting this story. Read article with link to the film info.

Environmental officials protect DOD, conceal dangers from students and families
Report citing 'significant health concern' labeled 'Not For Public Release'

'Not For Pubic Release': A nuclear incident in Lock Haven
documentary film by Bill Keisling

For much of the twentieth century the United States Department of Defense was a major producer of radioactive waste.

The Pentagon not only produced its own nuclear waste. For years, the DOD depended on an unknown number of private defense contractors to supply countless radioactive parts and equipment.

Blue Ribbon Commission sees Hanford waste

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but seeing a disaster site the size of Hanford made a bigger impression on at least one member of the Blue Ribbon Commission who toured the North America's largest Superfund site recently:

"Boy, oh boy, what a mess we created making those bombs," said former Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., a commission member, at the end of the Hanford tour. "Now we have to fix it up."

Hanford consists of 586 miles of contaminated everything- including leak-prone tanks containing 156 million curies of radioactive waste, the glowing blue of 1,936 capsules of strontium & cesium in the Waste Encapsulation Storage Facility (106 million curies of radiation), and the uncompleted "$12.3 billion vitrification plant being built to turn the tank waste into a stable [although how stable has raised questions] glass form starting in 2019." 

What the Blue Ribbon Commission will actually do about the nation's radioactive waste problem is currently a hotly debated topic. But, Hanford is a sobering sight and its clean-up, or the failure to clean it up properly, will effect the lives of people, and the environment, of the Northwest for farther into the future than we are capable of imagining. If the trip does something to mitigate the pro-nuclear backgrounds and leanings of the Commission, that will be a major step in the right direction.

Read article

Analysis Triples U.S. Plutonium Waste Figures

NYTimes / Matthew Wald

plutonium-1-HanfordarticleLarge.jpgWASHINGTON — The amount of plutonium buried at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State is nearly three times what the federal government previously reported, a new analysis indicates, suggesting that a cleanup to protect future generations will be far more challenging than planners had assumed.

This is hardly new information to Hanford Watchdog groups, but it is a good thing that the DOE and the government are publicly acknowledging it.

The desire of the DOE to clean up the Hanford site to 99% as opposed to the 99.9% demanded by the watchdog groups, the State of Oregon, and environmentalists seems like a small difference. But it's a critical one, that contains the fate of the Columbia River, and the public health of Hanford's neighbors now and, essentially (because of the 24,000 year half-life of plutonium) forever.


More info on what's buried in the 1000-plus page DOE clean-up plan can be found on the Heart of America NW website, and through Hanford Challenge


Read NYTimes article

Greenpeace joins DAE in Mayapuri decontamination


Experts from the Department of Atomic Energy, assisted by Greenpeace activists, on Sunday carried out decontamination operations at the Mayapuri market in West Delhi following reports of the presence of high levels of radiation in the scrap there.

Contact Your Elected Representatives!

When you have something to say, do you wonder how to let your elected representatives know? Remember, they are working for you!

The best way to make a real impact on your representatives in government is in person. Show up at town meetings and events and speak out. If that's not possible, call them. Don't be shy, that's what they're there for.

If you prefer to write in- a real letter will probably make a stronger impression, but sometimes time is tight and emails are much better than silence. No matter how you choose to make contact, remember they multiply your comments. For every person who takes the time to write or call in, they figure there are a certain percentage more who feel the same way.

You will always be making a difference.

Find out who your elected officials are at this link:

Contact U.S. Senators via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard : (202) 224-3121


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Nuclear Power is not the Answer