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Two points:

The cost of new nuclear powerplants is obviously not a relevant argument for turning existing nuclear power plants off prior to the end of their design life. That money has already been spent, the concrete poured, the steel forged, ect, and you dont get a refund.

Secondly: Paying private investors doubledigit returns on low carbon infrastructure in the current economic and climatic situation, regardless of type is.. gah. I dont have polite words.
That is not an argument against nuclear, it is an argument against our entire financial framework for building infrastructure.

by Thomas on Wed Jul 18th, 2012 at 04:58:08 PM EST
Thomas:
The cost of new nuclear powerplants is obviously not a relevant argument for turning existing nuclear power plants off prior to the end of their design life.

Indeed no. The argument about shutting them down is about safety.

A completely objective assessment of the safety of Europe's nuclear plants is not possible, because you can't buy insurance against a Fukushima type disaster. i.e. there is no rational way to assess whether the risks are justified by the economic benefit.

The reason new nukes are completely unaffordable, and will not be built without sovereign strategic decisions and sovereign financing (whatever fig-leaves may be employed) is that providing a high level of safety is horribly expensive. Pro-nuclear people no doubt believe that the safety standards that are now required are absurdly excessive. But this is demonstrably in the domain of belief.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 04:10:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"providing a high level of safety is horribly expensive"

A safe nuke is not more expensive than a dangerous nuke. Nukes are expensive, period.

For example, the Fukushima accident would never happened if the plants had been protected by a comparatively cheap 20 metre high seawall.

And even if such a thing was lacking and the plants had indeed suffered core meltdowns, 99.9% of the radioactive emissions would have been avoided if the plants had been equipped by protective filters, cheap and simple enough that all Swedish nukes had them installed in the 80's.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 10:49:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which suggests that the question is whether one lives in a society in which one can trust its regulatory institutions to require such things. Clearly the Japanese do not. I see little reason to have faith that we Americans do.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 10:40:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If that is so, you have far more acute problems to deal with than nuclear power or any energy crisis...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 05:07:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we do have both more acute and more serious long term problems than the energy crisis ~ though for the specific area where the breakdown of regulation of nuclear power plants comes home to roost, its both plenty acute and plenty serious long term ~ but over a 50 year period, I do not trust a US institution to remain free of capture by the industry for the whole 50 years. If you could point to a 50 year interval in US history when it had not occured in any given regulatory institution, I'd accept that its possible, but it still wouldn't be likely.

The US has ample sustainable, renewable energy sources that can be tapped with already existing renewable energy harvest technology for all our energy needs, if we adopt a sustainable economy, and if we don't adopt a sustainable economy then having nuclear power isn't going to save us. Our major energy challenge is vested interests standing in the way of abandoning energy profligate systems that they directly profit from.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 01:50:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we do have both more acute and more serious longshort term problems than the energy crisis...

Namely, are we going to starve to death this coming winter due to massive crop failures...

by asdf on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 02:19:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not in the US ~ switching to cereal grain and beans instead of grain-fed industrial farmed meat would keep starvation at bay. That's a flip side of the energy profligacy. What would be at risk would be massive subsidized agribusiness profits, and so the Congress would divert more food stamp budget into direct subsidy to long term unsustainable monoculture.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 05:47:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I tend to agree with you about shutting down plants prematurely. I'd note, cynically, that they are not shut down yet.

Your point about private returns is spot on, and it applies as much to nuclear as to renewables. Given the context we live in (no public sector investment as imposed by the EU), renewables can get lower cost of funding, if the regulatory framework is done right, than nukes can, because risk will be perceived as lower.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 05:52:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
no public sector investment as imposed by the EU

Do you know in what way this is actually stated, in what regulation, what law, what directive, or so on?

I imagine that given how the rules are actually framed, there might be certain loopholes, like borrowing via the state, then having the state issue all the cash to the state-owned utility via a rights issue, and so on. I.E. keep all the debt with the sovereign and have the utility funded solely through equity.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 10:55:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
no public sector investment as imposed by the EU

Do you know in what way this is actually stated, in what regulation, what law, what directive, or so on?

"Illegal state aid" rules.

Or, at any rate, their interpretation by the European Commission.

As a first step, it has to determine whether a company has received State aid, which is the case if the support meets the following criteria:

  • there has been an intervention by the State or through State resources which can take a variety of forms (e.g. grants, interest and tax reliefs, guarantees, government holdings of all or part of a company, or the provision of goods and services on preferential terms, etc.);
  • the intervention confers an advantage to the recipient on a selective basis, for example to specific companies or sectors of the industry, or to companies located in specific regions;
  • competition has been or may be distorted;
  • the intervention is likely to affect trade between Member States.

By contrast, general measures are not regarded as State aid because they are not selective and apply to all companies regardless of their size, location or sector. Examples include general taxation measures or employment legislation.


If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 11:05:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, when the French state saved Alstom, that was clearly illegal state aid? The very ownership of state companies like Vattenfall or EdF is illegal state aid? State investment to support SME's are illegal state aid as well? Someone should tell the Swedish government then. Furthermore and very clearly, all bank bailouts are illegal state aid.

This seems very much a rubber paragraph, which can be used whenever someone has an axe to grind, and to be ignored when it fits the interests of the Commission.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 11:14:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Furthermore and very clearly, all bank bailouts are illegal state aid.

And Commissioner Almunia and his staff are going to be controling the process...

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 11:35:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yay.

Ok, this is what the rules say:

By contrast, general measures are not regarded as State aid because they are not selective and apply to all companies regardless of their size, location or sector

So... offer all companies, no matter what size or sector or owner, the option of taking part in a massively diluting rigths issue, where the government injects, say 10 % of current equity in the company, and in return gets new shares equal to 1000% of the current number of shares. This would be equal and open to all, but no company would ever except the "offer", except one that is already 100% state-owned.

In this way you could issue sovereign bonds and transfer the cash into state-owned power companies while avoiding the illegal state aid rules.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 11:43:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the value of the loans were measured to 'energy units' instead of current currencies. this would marry with Chris Cook's ideas, wouldn't it?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 01:23:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Commodity pegs are just as deflationary as gold buggery or ECBuggery.

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 06:45:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Isnt that because all commodities have become hedge fund spec?
Plus the fact they are diminishing supply?
Investing in solar rollout is trusting a source of energy that is as close to infinite as we'll ever need.
There would be risk of some inflation during short to medium term due to bandwaggoning/carpet-bagging but it would settle down when the train got rolling and the thrillseekers went looking for a bubble with more quick profits.
Plenty sunshine for everyone to get pie.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 08:18:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, it is because if you peg your money to a real resource (be it gold, oil, carbon, or entropy) you allow society to potentially generate credit claims to more real resources than can actually exist (and, based on past experience, this potentiality will eventually be realised) which is then followed by a debt-deflation cycle when the bubble pops.

Fiat money allows such nonsense to be inflated away (which is why inflation-indexed debt is as systemically risky as especie pegs).

If you are not convinced, try it on someone who has not been entirely debauched by economics. — Piero Sraffa

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 08:57:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not just that - Your monetary base gets vulnerable to technological shocks.

.... actually it is even worse than that. Shock implies surprises, but energy production is predictably going to dee upheavals.  - it is the one sector of the economy guaranteed to experience technological changes. I dont know how we will be producing electrons in 2032, nor what they will cost, and neither does anyone else. -

 I can list half-a-dozen highly plausible optinons for future generation mixes and technologies off the top of my head - some of them are unavoidably moderately more expensive than unmitigated coal, and some of them are ridiculusly cheap. Either of which would completely wreck any currency based off the supply of power. Bad, bad, bad idea.

by Thomas on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 06:36:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thomas:
some of them are ridiculously cheap.

promises, promises...

just supposing we envision a future ever embroigled in the 'winner-takes-all' zero-sum game we call predatory capitalism, couldn't we make at least it fair?

ie no whining when the wheel turns against you and you bet loses to the house. if your currency breaks on the reefs of reality, then cut your losses and bet on another one.

or go home and bake cookies...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jul 20th, 2012 at 07:59:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well, State ownership is not a factor, as the EU was not allowed to decide on forms of ownership, but State-owned firms are supposed to finance themselves without a State guarantee, explicit or implicit.

That applied to EDF but also to the Landesbanken, whose business model (borrow cheap and lend cheap to local companies) was broken by the EU to comply with the "competition" demands of the London-based (and US-owned) investment banks. So they had to borrow expensive, and turned to crazy stuff like MBS to earn the equivalent revenue, while their past clients went to the investment banks for loans (and get cut off at times of crisis...)

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 12:37:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wouldn't put all the blame on Anglo banks. While the prime beneficents are the rentiers in the financial sector these Competition rules favor all well established players.
by generic on Thu Jul 19th, 2012 at 01:14:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This seems very much a rubber paragraph, which can be used whenever someone has an axe to grind, and to be ignored when it fits the interests of the Commission.

Quite.

Which, given the macroeconomic acumen of the current Commission, translates to "no significant public investment in anything useful."

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Jul 23rd, 2012 at 03:04:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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