The Economic Cost of Nuclear Power

By Richard Lance Christie
(Revised 02 Nov 07)

Free Market v. Subsidized Nuclear Power Economics:
“In a market economy, private investors are the ultimate arbiter of what energy technologies can compete and yield reliable profits, so to understand nuclear power’s prospects, just follow the money.  Private investors have flatly rejected nuclear power but enthusiastically bought its main supply-side competitors - decentralized cogeneration and renewables.  Worldwide, at the end of 2004, these supposedly inadequate alternatives had more installed capacity than nuclear, produced 92 percent as much electricity, and were growing 5.9 times faster and accelerating, while nuclear was fading.”  -Nuclear physicist Amory B. Lovins, PhD in RMI Solutions, Fall, 2005.

In a presentation to the Western Governors’ Association North American Energy Summit, held in Albuquerque, NM on April 15, 2004, nuclear physicist Thomas B. Cochran, Ph.D., noted that the 103 existing nuclear power plants operating in the U.S. were typically operating at high capacity factors in a competitive environment.  However, the last unit to enter commercial operation was TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 1 in June 1996, and the last successful order for a new U.S. nuclear plant was in 1973.  “No energy generation company in the United States has been willing to order and construct a new nuclear plant in more than thirty years, and none have taken anything more than preliminary steps towards purchasing and constructing a new nuclear plant today in the absence of a promise of huge federal subsidies.  This is not because of public opposition; not for want of a licensed geologic repository for the disposal of spent fuel; and not because of the proliferation risks associated with commercial nuclear power.  Rather, it is because new commercial nuclear power plants are uneconomical in the United States.”

Wenonah Hauter of Public Citizen’s Crit ical Mass Energy and Environment Program summarizes: “The bottom line is that nuclear power remains fatally flawed.  Cost, safety, security, waste and proliferation are all unsolved issues.  Any one of these issues by itself would be reason enough to toss the nuclear idea out the window.  Considering all five, it’s just loony.”

Economist Lester Thurow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said, “Nuclear power is one of the few examples in which human sociology has completely dominated hard science.”  “Nuclear Follies,” a February 11, 1985 cover story in Forbes, declared the U.S. experience with nuclear power “the largest managerial disaster in business history.”   The Natural Resources Defense Council’s position on energy options, including nuclear, is “Let the marketplace work to address the problems we face and price energy at its full societal cost by internalizing the cost of environmental pollution.”

2005-2007 U.S. subsidy program for nuclear power: The 2005 Energy Policy Act provides a form of public subsidy in the streamlined Early Site Permit (ESP) process for siting nuclear reactors.  When issued, the permit signifies acceptance of a site’s suitability for building and operating a new nuclear reactor.  The applicant does not have to specify the reactor design they intend to use; the site is approved for a range of options, and can be “banked” for 20 years with the option of a 20-year extension.  Only a very limited range of issues can be raised during the ESP application process, such as the availability of cooling water.  There is no consideration allowed of whether there is a need for additional power in the area, and whether other power sources or conservation would be able to supply a demonstrable need at a lower cost, with environmental impact of operating the plant taken into account.  In the past, the public had a right to formal hearings, including depositions and cross-examination of witnesses over specific issues, called “contentions,” in the site licensing process.  Under the ESP regulations, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has complete discretion on whether there will be formal hearings or informal ones which do not allow even for expert testimony.  The time scale for public filing of contentions against a siting permit application under ESP has been shortened considerably, making it difficult to compile a well-documented argument for the hearing record.  Finally, Exelon, Entergy, and Dominion have filed ESP applications for sites with one or more currently-operating reactors.  As part of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Power 2010 program, half the cost of processing these applications - over $3 million so far - is borne by taxpayers, not the applicants.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 contains circa $13 billion in new gifts from the taxpayer for nuclear expansion: 80 percent of reactor cost loan guarantees (if appropriated), circa $3 billion in “research and development,” 50 percent licensing cost subsidies, $2 billion in public insurance against any legal or regulatory delays for the first six reactors built (including challenges by the public on safety grounds, e.g., a whistleblower reported faulty construction and a public-interest group sued), a 1.8 cent per kWh increase in operating subsidies for the first 8 years and 6 GW (equivalent to a capital subsidy of ~$842 kWh - roughly two-fifths of likely capital cost), a new $1.3 billion tax break for decommissioning funds, and liability for mishaps capped at $10.9 billion (and largely avoidable through shell companies).  The ten companies that own the majority of nuclear plants have set up individual nuclear plants as limited liability companies, which restricts liability to the assets directly owned by the LLC.  A 2002 report by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., says: “the limited liability structures being utilized are effective mechanisms for transferring profits to the parent/owner while avoiding tax payments.  They also provide a financial shield for the parent/owner if an accident, equipment failure, safety upgrade, or unusual maintenance need at one particular point creates a large, unanticipated cost.  The parent/owner can walk away by declaring bankruptcy for that separate entity without jeopardizing its other nuclear and non-nuclear investments.”

A 2001 Congressional Research Service report found total construction costs exceeded US $3,000 per kilowatt for reactors that were started after 1974, and those completed since the mid- 1980's averaged US $3,600 per kilowatt.  According to an analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, plants that began construction between 1966 and 1977 underestimated their actual costs by roughly 14 percent even when the plants were 90 percent complete.  The two new design Advanced Boiling Water Reactors built by General Electric in Japan came in at $3,236 per kilowatt and $2,800 per kilowatt after GE estimated they would cost $1,528 per kilowatt to construct.

The U.S. Department of Energy's "Near Term Deployment Group" prepared a report in 2001 on the relative costs of various forms of electrical energy generation when all the capital and other costs of the generation facility were taken into account.  Seventy-seven percent of the Deployment Group's members were employees or consultants for the nuclear energy industry.  They found that the cost to get a kilowatt hour's generating capacity from a nuclear power plant built with 2001 costs was $2,128 in 2001 dollars.  The cost of a kilowatt-hour's capacity from a natural gas-fired power plant under the most expensive scenario in their study was $682.  These numbers represent the total outlay of money to build a power plant divided by its generating capacity in kilowatt hours of electricity.  This report on the relatively high capital cost to build nuclear power generating capacity was used as the rationale for the new construction subsidies to the nuclear power industry contained in the 2005 federal Energy Policy Act.  These subsidies were justified in terms of making building nuclear power plants competitive with fossil-fuel-fired plants, an expression of the federal energy policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new power generation.

The Energy Act of 2005 subsidies of nuclear power follow in a proud tradition.  According to energy economist Doug Koplow, between 1950 and 1993 the U.S. nuclear power industry received nearly 50 percent of the total federal spending on energy research and development - some $51 billion.  Yet nuclear power currently provides about 20 percent of the United States and 12 percent of the world energy supply.

Public attitudes towards nuclear power:  In February 2006 the Christian Science Monitor reported an international survey of attitudes towards nuclear generation of electric power conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Interestingly, U.S. consumer’s attitudes were the most positive among all nations surveyed except for South Korea.  40% of Americans were favorable towards building more nuclear power plants in the U.S., 29% said continuing to operate the existing nuclear power plants was ok but we should not build more of them, and 20% wanted to close all existing nuclear power plants and not build any new ones.  Among French respondents, 20% were in favor of building more, 50% were ok with existing plants continuing but opposed building more, and 30% wanted to close all existing plants and not build any new ones.  The IAEA reported that there are currently 443 nuclear power plants operating worldwide.

Comparison of Energy Source Costs

The best and most current cost comparison of nuclear, fossil fuel, renewable and cogeneration production of electricity was done by Paul L. Joskow and his colleagues in the interdisciplinary MIT study, “The Future of Nuclear Power.”  The MIT study derives a “levelized cost” for the power sources it compares; “levelized cost is the constant real wholesale price of electricity that meets a private investor’s financing cost, debt repayment, income tax, and associated cash flow constraints.” (p. 38) The study found the levelized cost of electricity generated by a new nuclear plant was estimated to be about 60 percent higher than the cost of electricity from a coal plant or a gas-fueled plant assuming moderate gas prices.  The cost for nuclear electricity derived in the MIT study was 7 cents p er kWh in 2004 dollars; adding the cost of delivery to customers (at least 2.75 cents per kWh) raises the busbar cost to 9.8 cents per delivered kWh.  The MIT study found that the cost of coal-fired electric power would be roughly equivalent to this if a $100/TC  carbon tax was assessed.  Natural gas power plant electricity would also be equivalent in price to nuclear at $4-7 MCF fuel cost with a $100 TC carbon tax assessed.  Wind-generated electricity with 2003 technology was cheaper per kWh than nuclear, coal, or natural gas generation if a $100/TC carbon tax is assessed.  The MIT study examined three forms of cogeneration and end-use efficiency, and found that all were cheaper per kWh derived in levelized cost than nuclear, coal, and natural gas with a 100/TC carbon tax.  The upper end of the combined-cycle industrial cogeneration technology levelized cost range per kWh overlapped the cost of wind power in the model, but did not reach the lower end of the cost estimate range for nuclear, coal, or natural gas generation.

In a September 11, 2005, paper Dr. Lovins states, “The claim that ‘we need all energy options’ has no analytic basis and is clearly not true; nor can we afford all options.  In practice, keeping nuclear power alive means displacing private and public investment from the cheaper market winners - cogeneration, renewables, and efficiency - to the costlier market loser.

Nuclear power is an inherently limited way to protect the climate....Its higher cost than competitors, per unit of net CO2 displaced, means that every dollar invested in nuclear expansion will worsen climate change by buying less solution per dollar.  Specifically, every $0.10 spent to buy a single new nuclear kilowatt-hour (roughly its delivered cost, including its 2004 subsidies, according to the authoritative MIT study’s findings expressed in 2004 dollars) could instead have bought 1.2 to 1.7 kWh of windpower (“firmed” to be available whenever desired), 0.9 to 1.7 kWh of gas-fired industrial or ~2.2-6.5 kWh of building-scale cogeneration (adjusted for their CO2 emissions), an infinite number of kWh from waste-heat cogeneration (since its economic cost is typically negative), or at least several, perhaps upwards of ten, kWh of electrical savings from more efficient use.  In this sense of ‘opportunity cost’ - any investment foregoes other outcomes that could have been bought with the same money - nuclear power is far more carbon-intensive than a coal plant.”

“If you are concerned about climate change, it is essential to buy the fastest and most effective climate solutions.  Nuclear power is just the opposite.”

“Why pay a premium to incur nuclear power’s uniquely disagreeable problems?  No other energy technology spreads do-it-yourself kits and innocent disguises for making weapons of mass destruction, nor creates terrorist targets or potential for mishaps that can devastate a region, nor creates wastes so hazardous, nor is unable to restart for days after an unexpected shutdown.  Why incur the opportunity cost of buying a nuclear option that both saves less carbon per dollar and is slower per megawatt to deploy?”

“Lord Keynes said, ‘If a thing is not worth doing, it is not worth doing well.’  Nuclear power has already died of an incurable attack of market forces, with no credible prospect of revival.  Current efforts to deny this reality will only waste money, further distort markets, and reduce and retard carbon dioxide displacement.  The cheaper, faster, abundant alternatives are now empirically at least twice as big, are being bought an order of magnitude faster in GW/y, and offer far greater ultimate potential.  Since nuclear power is therefore unnecessary and uneconomic, we needn’t debate whether it’s safe.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists report Walking a Nuclear Tightrope: Unlearned Lessons from Year-plus Reactor Outages examined 51 nuclear plant shutdowns in the U.S. that lasted more than a year, occurring in 41 different plants over the past 40 years.  The report found that the extended shutdowns cost ratepayers and stockholders in the power companies nearly $82 billion in lost revenue, and were the result of poor management and ineffective regulatory oversight which led to dangerous declines in safety maintenance levels, resulting in extended shutdowns to repair problems which had occurred and grown due to neglect.  For purposes of this essay, I point to the enormous cost of these shutdowns as a cost of nuclear energy production in practice which is rarely mentioned in analysis of nuclear power costs.

If one takes only the cost of fuel, plant maintenance and operation for various forms of energy production, the costs in 2001 dollars with 2001 fuel and labor prices were:  1.83 cents per kilowatt hour for nuclear, 2.07 cents for coal, 3.52 for natural gas, and 3.8 cents for oil-fired electric power plants.  In 2004, the U.S. Energy Information Administration published the following comparison figure ranges (all in cents per kilowatt hour “production” cost): 3.13 cents for energy efficiency, 4.5-5.4 cents for coal; 4.8 cents for geothermal, 4.9-8.5 cents for hydroelectric, 5.2-6.5 cents for natural gas; 5.5-6.4 cents for biomass, and 12.4-26 cents for solar.

Towards identifying actual nuclear power market cost per kwh:  The highest number I have seen cited by researchers seeking to identify all life cycle costs of nuclear power paid for by both nuclear electric customers and taxpayers, then dividing it by system lifetime electric output is 30 cents per kilowatt hour.   The cost model that derived 30 cents per kilowatt hour as an upper limit of estimated “true” cost of nuclear power was based, of necessity, on some very large and highly arbitrary assumptions.  However, each one of these assumptions does represent a credible cost to the public of nuclear power.  One can quarrel with the values assigned to the assumptions, but there is face validity to each of the cost categories included in the model.  The cost categories the model embraced were:

•  the capital cost of construction of all nuclear power plants
• the lifetime cost of fuel, operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants
• the cost of decommissioning nuclear power plants, including stewardship of the radioactive wastes yielded during decommissioning.
• the costs to the DOE for perpetual ownership and maintenance of reclaimed uranium mill tailings impoundments when title to them is given to the DOE by the operator in accordance with Title II of the Uranium Mine Tailings Radiation Control Act.
• the costs of uranium enrichment in the four federal facilities which have done all this work for the nuclear power industry, including their cleanup and waste disposal cost estimates; and the cost of long-term high and low-level waste storage from the nuclear energy program in Carlsbad and Yucca Mountain.
• the costs of external security services which nuclear power plants do not pay for
• estimated costs to society from nuclear accidents which caused damage the taxpayer pays for above the damages cap provided for in federal law.

I see three features of this model which are the least credible or certain, “true” values for which might cause major change downward in this “true lifecycle cost” per kWh derived from nuclear power in the U.S:

(1) The model assumed all currently licensed reactors in the U.S. would be decommissioned when their initial operating licenses expired.  In fact, nuclear power utilities are applying for license extensions of 20 years.  If these license extensions are granted, as seems likely, and major capital expenditures or mishap expenses are not encountered by the facilities during their extended operational lifetime, then the number of kWh generated by the nuclear power system will rise by about 66 percent without a corresponding rise in system capital and fuel cycle waste costs.

(2) The model assumed that there would be nuclear accidents producing billions in damages which would be paid for by both the industry and the taxpayer, based on a stochastic risk model.  If no nuclear mishap occurs during the life of the nuclear power industry in the U.S., then no costs will be entertained in this category, which cuts billions from the costs totaled by the model.

(3) The model made a number of assumptions about the cost of spent nuclear fuel waste handling, disposal, and permanent isolation based on the Yucca Mountain + Carlsbad retrievable storage model that was on the table at the time the model was constructed in the 1990's.  Nuclear engineer Robert Pattison and I have had a lively exchange in which he has demonstrated that it is feasible to reprocess these wastes, greatly reducing the volume and half-life radioactivity of materials which have to be sequestered as waste.  I recommend the adoption of the solution for long-term storage and isolation of these nuclear wastes proposed by Robert A. Heinlein: vitrify the wastes into glass bricks as is done in France, then build replicas of the Great Pyramid of Cheops in dead sea basins remaining from prehistoric Lake Bonneville in western Utah with them.  The vitrified bricks do not emit enough ionizing radiation to be hazardous without long-term exposure, and the radionucleides are bound in the silicon matrix which erodes at the same rate as native uranium ores, thus automatically limiting release of nucleides into the air and water to a rate undifferentiable from ambient, native sources of these materials.  If the nuclear energy program in the U.S. would copy the successful features of waste processing and sequestration used in Europe and Japan, rather than the highly expensive and technically shaky policy we are pursuing here, it appears possible that the short and long-term costs of waste handling, processing, and isolation could be greatly reduced from the high figures used in the model which describe the cost consequences of our current politically-driven approach.

The cost per kilowatt hour for nuclear energy in 2004 dollars derived from the MIT study which considered only the first three items above in its “levelized cost” model is 9.8 cents per kilowatt hour delivered.  Given this, addition of externalized costs for waste handling and fuel enrichment has to push this figure up over 10 cents per kilowatt hour.  Fifteen cents may prove to be a credible figure; the issue needs to be substantially explored by an unbiased and credible body of scientists and economists.

Nuclear Energy As A Cost-Effective Climate Change Abatement Tool

Elsewhere Dr. Lovins stated: “the thousand or so best electricity-saving innovations now on the market, if fully implemented throughout the United States, would displace over half of all the electricity the country now uses.”  Since the Arab oil embargo of 1973, about 80 percent of increased U.S. energy demand has been met with savings, not new generation.

Lovins notes we have been trying to make nuclear power cost-effective for half a century.  Are we there yet?  How would we know?  He asks “would nuclear advocates simply agree to de-subsidize the entire energy sector, so all options can compete on a level playing field?”  From my long association with renewable energy practitioners and advocates, I know that de-subsidizing the energy sector is their preferred national policy.  Lovins speaks longingly of the prospect that a state government might create a “subsidy-free zone” in which all ways to save or produce energy could compete fairly and at honest prices, regardless of what kind they are, what technology they use, or who owns them.  “Who could be against that?” he asks.

NRDC calculated how many nuclear reactors the world would need to build in lieu of new fossil-fueled plants to measurably curb the rise in global temperature.  If we added 700 gigawatts of nuclear capacity, about twice the current world nuclear capacity, by 2050 and continued to operate these plants through the end of the 21st century, it would prevent a global temperature increase of about 0.36 degree Fahrenheit.  Fueling these new facilities would require about 15 new uranium enrichment plants and another 14 Yucca Mountain-size geologic repositories to dispose of the spent fuel from them.  The spent fuel rods would contain one million kilograms of plutonium.

According to reports from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, and others, between 1,000 and 2,000 new nuclear power plants would need to be built worldwide by mid-century to achieve a noticeable reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.  Given the long construction time and capital intensiveness of nuclear power plants, it is clear that building this many reactors in that time is not feasible.  Even if it were, this number of reactors would generate five times as much high-level nuclear waste as currently, requiring the opening of a Yu cca Mountain repository equivalent every three to four years.  Only 9 percent of total annual human greenhouse gas emissions result from electricity generation.  On the other hand, 93 percent of the more potent greenhouse chlorofluorocarbon gases are produced from uranium enrichment.

A 2004 analysis in Science by Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow, co-directors of Princeton University’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative, says 700 gigawatts of new nuclear generation - roughly double the output of the world’s 443 current operating reactors - would be needed to achieve just one-seventh of the greenhouse gas emission reductions (at current emission rates) required to stabilize atmospheric carbon concentrations at 500 parts per million.  Pacala and Socolow identify 15 technologies or practices now in commercial operation somewhere in the world and say that scaling any seven of them up could stabilize carbon emissions over the next 50 years.

Proposals to Lower the True Market Cost of Nuclear Power Production

One way of lowering the environmental cost of nuclear power production is to eliminate mining and milling activity which generate toxic wastes, and reduce both the amount and radioactive half-life of the post-reactor fuel waste stream.  Phil Carlson, M.D., writes of this potential: “It is highly likely that through the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership spent fuel will eventually be reprocessed to reclaim 98 percent of the unused fission energy.  The remaining fission byproducts are radioactive for only 200 years.  Reprocessing makes storage and security magnitudes easier by markedly reducing volume and half-life and by eliminating plutonium and other elements.  It also is highly likely that in the not-too-distant future we can minimize uranium mining altogether because the spent fuel rods will have ample energy after reprocessing to keep us supplied for hundreds of years.”

However, a July 2000 report commissioned by the French government concluded that reprocessing of nuclear fuel rods is uneconomical, costing about $25 billion more than a normal fuel cycle for the same volume of recovered fissile material.  The report also found that reprocessing did little to reduce the amount of long-lived radioactive isotopes in the waste that had to be sequestered after reprocessing was completed.  A separate study concluded that the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Japan was uneconomical, costing $20 billion and taking 12 years to build, which investment could not be amortized within the facility operating lifetime by the value of recovered fissile fuels.  The cost of the Rokkasho plant adding tons of plutonium to the nation’s waste stockpile was also not included in the economic analysis which informed the government decision to build the plant.

The Fast Neutron Reactor: use of plutonium as fuel and conversion of nuclear waste from long-lived to short-lived forms:

Fast neutron reactors are typically high-temperature reactors fueled by a plutonium and uranium blend and cooled using an inert gas or liquid metal.  The light water reactors in use today in commercial power generation use water to slow down neutrons and cool the reactor.

The history of fast neutron reactors is filled with safety and economic failures.  Fast neutron reactors are more prone to safety problems because they operate with faster-moving neutrons at higher temperatures, presenting control problems.  Since 1951, more than 20 of these reactors have been built in 7 countries, all funded through government programs.  Only the French Phènix reactor, the Russian BN-600 reactor, and the small experimental Joyo reactor in Japan still operate.  Both the French and Russian reactors have leaked highly flammable sodium coolant, and an accident at the fuel fabrication plant for the Joyo reactor killed two workers in 1999.  The Phènix and Joyo reactors have operated less than 50 percent of the time during their service lives due to ongoing safety problems requiring shutdown.

In theory, fast neutron reactors would transmute long-lived wastes from spent fuel rods in light water reactors into shorter-lived wastes, thus reducing the length of time that wastes from a nuclear power program must be kept isolated in a geologic repository.  In practice, the rate of transmutation of these wastes in existing fast neutron reactors has been low.  I n addition, the short-lived wastes generate far more heat by volume, presenting disposal challenges.  Fabrication of fuel rods for the fast neutron reactors has remained problematic and dangerous.

Due to the materials and cost of building fast reactors, they would cost significantly more to construct than light water reactors of the same generating capacity.  Under the partnership plan to address geologic waste disposal problems, the U.S. would need on fast reactor for every three light water reactors to reduce the amount of waste that must be stored at a geologic repository.  Public Citizen’s Energy Program estimates that, “To get 20 to 25 fast reactors built, U.S. taxpayers would have to shell out $80 billion to $100 billion.”

Writing about reprocessing nuclear fuel rods in the Spring 2006 Union of Concerned Scientists Catalyst, Edwin Lyman and Lisbeth Gronlund make these points:

• Because pure plutonium is not highly radioactive it can be handled without serious harm, making it an attractive target for terrorists.  In contrast, nuclear fuel rods are so radioactive that exposure of one hour one yard away is lethal.
• The chemical process (PUREX) currently used to reprocess spent nuclear fuel rods produces only plutonium.  “The uranium recovered from reprocessing is so impure that it is generally not suitable for reuse and must be disposed of as low-level waste.”
• “Used fuel assemblies are reasonably stable when carefully stored.  But in a reprocessing plant, the spent fuel rods are chopped up and dissolved in hot acid, releasing radioactive gases that can escape into the e nvironment.  The process also involves solvents and other volatile materials that, if not handled properly, could explode and disperse radioactive materials over a wide area.  For these reasons, the risk of a serious release of radiation is much greater at a reprocessing plant than a well-designed spent-fuel storage facility.”
• Several foreign reprocessing plants have lost track of enough plutonium to make 10 or more nuclear weapons, and needed months or even years to detect and then account for the shortfall.
• The reprocessing plant itself becomes contaminated and must be disposed of as radioactive waste when decommissioned.
• “To significantly reduce the amount of waste requiring underground disposal, spent fuel must be reprocessed and reused many times in an advanced ‘burner’ reactor, which has yet to be developed and faces serious technical obstacles.”
• The DOE estimated in 1999 that it would cost more than $310 billion in 2005 dollars - and take 117 years - to repeatedly reprocess and reuse all the spent fuel existing U.S. reactors will have generated by the end of their lifetimes.
• Even if Yucca Mountain’s license is approved, a second repository will be required to accommodate the waste being generated by existing reactors.

Historic costs of plutonium production and reprocessing efforts: Between 1944 and 1988, the United States built and operated 14 plutonium-production reactors at Hanford, Washington and Savannah River Site, South Carolina, to produce about 100 metric tons of plutonium for nuclear weapons.  Through 1994, the DOE estimated that nuclear weapons research, production, and testing had cost more than $300 billion. Plutonium and uranium for weapons was extracted from the fuel rods from these reactors through chemical separation reprocessing.  Reprocessing generated 105 million gallons of highly radioactive chemical waste.  Cleanup at the Hanford, Savannah River and Idaho reprocessing sites is expected to continue for decades, cost over $100 billion, and leave significant contamination in some sites so that they will be off-limits for any agricultural or other human use forever.

The only commercial reprocessing facility in the U.S. operated from 1966 to 1972 at West Valley, New York.  To reprocess 640 metric tons of uranium, West Valley generated 600,000 gallons of liquid high-level waste along with spent fuel rods and transuranic and low-level waste.  Groud water and soil was contaminated at the site.  In 1980, the DOE estimated that cleanup costs for the site would be $285 million, 10 percent to be paid by New York State and the rest by federal taxpayers.  Adjusting for inflation, this estimate would be $675 million in 2005 dollars.  In fact, New York state has spent around $200 million and federal taxpayers about $2 billion on cleanup of the West Valley site to date, with another $550 million more in federal dollars estimated to finish the job.  One wonders about this estimate since all the high-level and transuranic waste generated from reprocessing is still on site at West Valley.

Economic and environmental costs of nuclear fuel production alternatives:

A new uranium rush is on in the intermountain west.  More than 8,500 mining claims have been filed for uranium in 2005, so far, and several uranium mines are re-opening in Colorado and Utah.  Breathless articles about this new uranium frenzy say that nuclear reactors worldwide need 180 million pounds of uranium per year and only 100 million is being mined.  In fact, most of that difference was supplied from reprocessing nuclear wastes, used fuel rods, and atomic bombs, not from reserves.

In 2004, the world production of new uranium yellowcake from mining and milling ore was 36,263 metric tons ("tonnes").  66,658 tonnes were provided to operators of nuclear reactors in the same year.  The difference was made up by nuclear fuel obtained from down-blending 90% enriched weapons-grade "high enriched uranium" and from processing of "Uranium enrichment tailings" and used reactor fuel rods.  In 2005 the World Nuclear Association says approximately 70,000 tonnes of yellowcake were consumed by the world nuclear industry, 45% from secondary sources; the 2003 projection for the next 50 years by the WNA was 70,000 tonnes a year; with 35% of the yellowcake production being from secondary sources by 2010.  Even at the most optimistic of nuclear power growth projections, uranium consumption by power plants would top off at 125,000 tonnes per year by 2025.

In the United States alone, we have 686,500 tonnes of Uranium Enrichment Tailings stored in containers outside nuclear fuel processing facilities.  These tailings are what is left after yellowcake is turned into uranium hexafluoride gas and a portion of the uranium is concentrated by gaseous diffusion technology into fuel pellets for fuel rods. The Department of Energy is currently building two reprocessing plants to convert the uranium in these tailings into nuclear fuel using centrifuge enrichment technology.  100 tons of Uranium Enrichment Tailings produces as much nuclear fuel as 62 tons of uranium ore when processed.  The amount of Uranium Enrichment Tailings on hand in the U.S. alone would supply the world's uranium needs for thirteen years at current use levels.

World stockpiles of weapons-grade high-enriched uranium were 1900 tonnes in 2003.  On ton of HEU yields the same amount of nuclear reactor fuel as 360 tons of uranium yellowcake.

Finally, we have over 90% of the original uranium remaining in used nuclear reactor fuel rods.  France currently reprocesses their fuel rods to recover the unspent uranium and convert it back to the correct concentration in new fuel rods. Currently "spent" fuel rods in the United States are stored in water- filled pools on nuclear reactor campuses around the country awaiting the opening of the Yucca Mountain repository in which they are to be entombed.  The amount of waste already in storage at nuclear facilities will fill Yucca Mountain’s 63,000 metric ton capacity if the facility ever actually opens.  Since each pass through the reactor only depletes about 6-8% of the uranium in a fuel rod before its concentration becomes too low to sustain a controlled fission reaction in the engineered reactor environment, in theory we could turn one ton of nuclear fuel originally supplied from a uranium enrichment facility into 5.5 tons of usable uranium fuel equivalent (this allows for processing losses and inefficiencies in reprocessing of fuel rods).

In President Bush’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) program, the administration proposes to develop new technologies to extract plutonium, uranium, and other transuranics from these spent nuclear fuel rods for insertion into a new generation of “burner” reactors which are designed to use the mixed transuranic + uranium fuel  In its FY 2007 federal budget request, the Bush administration included $243 million for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative to develop new fuel reprocessing technologies.  These new technologies would be used to reprocess fuel from existing commercial reactors and new generation reacto rs to “support an expanding role for nuclear power in the United States.”  Of that amount, $155 million is initial funding for a engineering scale Uranium Extraction (UREX+) demonstration reprocessing plant.  UREX+ is scheduled in the budget request to be operational by 2011.  GNEP’s rationale states that this reprocessing will yield little waste volume which requires geologic disposal, and these radioactive wastes from reprocessing will be relatively short-lived compared to the high-level radioactive “wastes” currently in the fuel rods which are slated for geologic disposal.

In the case of used fuel rods from commercial nuclear reactors, uranium enrichment tailings, and weapons-grade high-enriche d uranium, human society has already sustained the environmental costs of mining, milling, and concentrating uranium ore to produce enriched uranium.  Human society now has in hand a radioactive substance produced by the uranium enrichment process which poses ongoing environmental hazards and containment costs.  An intelligent species might be expected to choose to first process these wastes and products to remove usable fissionable fuel from them, thus reducing the containment cost and environmental risk of their continued presence in the environment.  Only when all the existing products and wastes from uranium enrichment which can yield uranium for fuel rods are processed and disposed of does it make environmental sense - and probably economic sense in terms of reduction of containment costs and risk of damage from containment failure or diversion of fissionables by bad actors - to initiate additional mining and milling of uranium ores.  In situ, the uranium ore is not an environmental hazard and poses no potential cost to the human economy; instead, it is natural capital “in the bank” which can be utilized if needed.  Let's deal with the uranium ore that has already been liberated into the environment and does pose an environmental hazard and potential cost to the human economy before adding to the inventory of hazardous radioactive uranium enrichment products and by-products and thus the risk and containment costs which our human economy must bear.

Let us now review the inventories of known uranium ore reserves, and then the amount of uranium ore equivalents available from reprocessing uranium enrichment tailings and weapons-grade high-enriched uranium to derive fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.
 Nuclear Fuel Source   Available Inventory  Uranium Ore Equivalent  Uranium Ore
 4,743,000 tonnes of U  (WNA, 2005 - IAEA)
 4,743,000 tonnes of yellowcake extractable at $80 per pound or less
 Uranium Enrichment Tailings
 686,500 tonnes; 100 tonnes = 62 tonnes ore uranium yield
 425,630 tonnes (U.S. tailings only)
 High-enriched uranium
 1,900 tonnes; 1 tonne = 360 tonnes yellowcake
 684,000 tonnes
 yellowcake equivalent

If one only utilized nuclear fuel derived from reprocessing uranium enrichment tailings in the U.S. alone and high-enriched weapons-grade uranium worldwide, one would derive 1,109,630 tonnes of yellowcake equivalent to put into new fuel rods.  At the 50-year WNA projected average consumption rate of 70,000 tonnes per year to supply nuclear reactors worldwide with fuel, fuel from these two secondary sources alone would last 15.85 years.  Russia has the equivalent of 300,000 tonnes of yellowcake available in its un-reprocessed uranium enrichment tailings; Russia has already produced 3,000 tonnes of yellowcake for the world uranium market from reprocessing these tailings in recent years.

Then we have the feedstock potentially available from reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods in storage at nuclear power plants in the United States from past operations, and recovery of transuranic and uranium fissionables from all fuel rods used in nuclear power plants in the future after reprocessing is established.  I have to infer the amount of fuel recoverable from spent fuel rods produced in the U.S. to date: the amount is allegedly enough to fill Yucca Mountain which has a capacity of 63,000 tonnes, and you can get an estimated 5.5 tonnes nuclear fuel equivalent by reprocessing each tonne of yellowcake originally used to make these fuel rods.  Thus, it appears we might derive 346,500 tonnes of yellowcake equivalent simply from reprocessing existing inventories of U.S. spent fuel rods, which is enough to supply the entire world with fuel at 70,000 tonnes a year for 4.95 years.

However, if we have a worldwide nuclear fuel reprocessing technology in place by circa 2025 as aspired to by GNEP, with new burner reactors utilizing reprocessed transuranic + uranium fuel rods, then four-fifths of the yellowcake equivalent of fissionables put into new fuel rods will be from reprocessing, and only one-fifth needs to be new yellowcake from either secondary source reprocessing or from mining, milling, and enriching uranium ore.  If the nuclear nuclear power program aspired to in GNEP is operating in 2025, consuming 125,000 tonnes of yellowcake fuel input a year, then 100,000 tonnes of that input to new fuel rods would be from reprocessing spent fuel rods and only 25,000 tonnes would need to be “new” yellowcake.  This thumbnail analysis does not take into account the additional spent fuel rods which will be generated by the world nuclear industry during the interim before the projected UREX+ reprocessing technology is developed and implemented, which then become an additional fuel source.  This analysis also does not take into account that reactor operators had 110,000 tonnes of uranium fuel in inventory at power plants in 2005.  However, assuming that 70,000 tonnes of uranium is put into fuel rods each year from 2007 until 2025, and that 35% of that uranium will be from secondary sources throughout that 18-year period per the WNA’s projections, then of the 1,260,000 tonnes of yellowcake needed, 441,000 tonnes would come from secondary sources, leaving an inventory of 854,630 tonnes of secondary material still available from Russian and U.S. uranium enrichment tailings and high-enriched weapons uranium sources.  If one then operated the GNEP world nuclear energy program on four-fifths reprocessed fuel at 100,000 tonnes a year and uranium from secondary sources at 25,000 tonnes per year, one would be able to support this world nuclear industry with fuel without mining one pound of uranium ore for a period of 34 years.  This pattern of supply for nuclear power would steadily decrease inventories of nuclear waste and weapons-grade uranium worldwide, lowering environmental and economic risk associated with the quarantine of these materials from escape into the environment and with possible failures of containment.

The historic “finding cost” - the cost of finding and identifying mineable uranium ore deposits - is estimated at about $0.60/pound or $1.50 per kilogram of Uranium.  The cost of recovery of uranium oxide have been in the $15-25 per pound ($33-55 per kilogram) range for 20 years.  However, uranium mining companies in the United States get a “percentage depletion allowance” of 22 percent, the highest rate of all depletion allowances for minerals.  This gives uranium mining companies a tax write-off for the market value of what they have extracted - a significant subsidy since it often exceeds actual investment in the mine’s infrastructure.

According to the World Nuclear Energy 2005 Symposium held by the International Atomic Energy Agency, world recoverable (at $80 per kg or less cost) Uranium resources as of 2005 were known to be:
 Country                     Tonnes Uranium            World Percent
 Australia                     1,143,000                          24%
 Kazakhstan                 816,000                             17%
 Canada                         444,000                               9%
 USA                               342,000                               7%
 South Africa              341,000                                7%
 Namibia                      282,000                                6%
 Brazil                            279,000                               6%
 Russian Federation 172,000                              4%
 Uzbekistan                  116,000                               2%
 All Other Countries 808,000                             18%
 WORLD TOTAL         4,743,000

The percent increase in recoverable Uranium reserves known to the WNA at $80/pound between 2003-2005 was 34 percent, or 1,206,000 tonnes.

Assuming that additional increases in known reserves equal withdrawals from those reserves for nuclear fuel production between 2007 and 2025, that the reprocessing and burner reactor system of GNEP is up and running in 2025, and that the world nuclear energy then uses up secondary sources to supplement reprocessing fuel recovery for 34 years before turning to mining and milling new ore for nuclear fuel; then mining, milling and enriching uranium would have to resume in 2059.  With ongoing reprocessing supplying four fifths of each year’s new fuel rod production contents each year, this 4,743,000 tonnes of recoverable Uranium would last 189.72 years at 25,000 tonnes a year depletion.

Economic and Environmental Costs of Nuclear Power Reactors

On an idyllic country road in Connecticut sits what is left of the Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant.  After shutting down in 1996, the 590-megawatt reactor is to complete its decommissioning as of late 2006.  When decommissioning is complete, over 136,000 metric tons of soil, concrete, metals, and other materials will have been removed from the site at a cost of more than $400 million to the area’s electricity consumers.  The last part of the decommissioning was to disassemble the 35,000 metric tons of steel-reinforced concrete forming the containment dome for the reactor.

The directors of the Connecticut Yankee Atomic Power Company had discovered that it was far cheaper for them to purchase power in the then-newly-deregulated electricity market than to generate it with the aged nuclear reactor.  If they had waited to shut down the reactor, they might have sold it instead.  Around 2000 companies such as Exelon Corporation, a merger between Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison and Pennsylvania-based PECO, and the Louisiana-based Entergy Corporation emerged.  These companies began buying nuclear reactors.  By 2002, 10 corporations owned all or part of 70 of the nation’s 103 operating reactors.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, nine new nuclear plants have gone online 2004-2006: three in Japan, two in Ukraine, and one each in South Korea, India, China and Russia.  At the same time two nuclear plants in Canada were restarted, and Canada is considering building a new reactor.  In 2006 23 new nuclear plants were under construction around the world, including one in Finland which is the first in Europe since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.  France, whose 58 reactors provide approximately 80 percent of the national electricity supply, is considering building a new plant.  The British are considering new reactors to replace their aging fleet of 31, most of which are due to retire by 2020.

There are two major arenas of environmental impact which inevitably result from construction of a nuclear reactor.

First, nuclear power is not “carbon free” on a cradle-to-grave basis.  Fossil fuel energy is used in the entire nuclear fuel chain - mining, milling, and enriching uranium for use as fuel; building of the plants (particularly in producing the cement used), decommissioning the plants, and construction of storage facilities for wastes from the plants.  The gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant in Paducah, Kentucky, is one of the largest single consumers of coal-generated electricity in the nation.

Second, as illustrated by Connecticut Yankee, all the nuclear power plants built will eventually have to be decommissioned, which is an unusually expensive process because of the risks posed by radioactive contamination of components of the plants.

The manufacture of fuel for nuclear reactors has been highly subsidized.  When the nation’s two uranium enrichment plants were privatized into the U.S. Enrichment Corporation in 1998, the government retained liability for the waste clean-up associated with operation of uranium enrichment facilities, an ongoing endeavor with a price tag in the billions at taxpayer expense.

Nuclear plant owners also took advantage of highly accelerated depreciation and investment tax credits in the early 1980's.  These accounting mechanisms significantly reduced the capital costs of the reactors to their owners by reducing the tax revenues collected by the government.

Even so, after states began deregulating electricity markets in the 1990s, utilities with nuclear plants found they needed to charge much more than the market rate for electricity to pay off their remaining debt, or “stranded costs,” in nuclear power plants and stay competitive with other electricity sources.  State after state changed the rules to allow utilities to pass on these stranded costs to ratepayers as a surcharge on their electric bills, a gift to the nuclear industry that by 1997 was worth $98 billion in additional revenues.

Before deregulation, nuclear reactors were typically built by investor-owned utilities and operated under “cost-of-service regulation.”  This enabled the utilities to enjoy stable rates based on their actual costs of nuclear power production rather than electricity sales at market prices, which fluctuate.  With these stable rates based on production costs stripped away, the usual risks of operating nuclear plants, such as unexpected shutdowns for maintenance or because of safety problems, became more severe.

The ratepaying public is also responsible for the costs of dealing with the spent fuel, estimated to total $60-100 billion for the current fleet of 103 reactors, and for the cost of decommissioning the plants.

The 1957 Price-Anderson Act, which was renewed, shields nuclear power plant owners from the lion’s share of accident liability by capping it at $300 million in primary liability plus $95.8 million that the utility responsible for the accident and the nation’s other nuclear utilities would contribute per reactor into an insurance pool ($15 million annual installments over six years).  That results in an insurance pool of approximately $10 billion.  By contrast, the cost of the Chrnobyl accident is estimated at circa US $350 billion, and cost liability from a serious accident at New York’s Indian Point 56 kilometers north of New York City would be in the trillions.  Costs of clean-up and property loss compensation above the Price-Anderson Act caps for the individual utility and nuclear industry insurance pool would be paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.

National Nuclear Initiatives as of 2007

The Bush administration has pursued two nuclear initiatives.  The first aims at developing a whole new generation of nuclear weapons to replace the current aging U.S. nuclear arsenal.  “Complex 2030", nicknamed “the Bombplex,” at public hearings around the United States in November and December 2006 held near the sites where components of the program would be performed (see below), among the hundreds of people who commented a third supported the initiative.  At national laboratory community sites Livermore, CA, and Albuquerque, NM, nobody spoke in favor of the Bombplex initiative.  At the four hearings held in New Mexico, most commenters noted that the Bombplex initiative violated the nation’s Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations and insisted that the government comply with the Non-Proliferation Treaty through good faith efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament.  Many asked what the strategic role was for nuclear weapons in an environment in which the enemies the United States is fighting are not state-based, but are instead terrorists using guerilla tactics, thus presenting no target of opportunity for high-yield bombs to disrupt.

The second initiative is the “Global Nuclear Energy Partnership,” whose broad aim is to offer government subsidies to induce a new generation of commercial nuclear power plants to be built in the United States and elsewhere in the world.  The rationale for the initiative is that nuclear power produces no greenhouse gases and is therefore the answer to abating global climate change.  The critique of that rationale’s practicality is spelled out above.

This section presents information on the history and structure of these initiatives to date:

Complex 2030: The semi-autonomous nuclear weapons part of the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, presented a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) for the following program in the initial public hearings on the PEIS held around the United States near the proposed program sites in November-December 2006:

• The Pantex Plant, near Amarillo, Texas would continue to assemble and disassemble all nuclear weapons
• The Lawrence Livermore (CA) and Los Alamos (NM) National Laboratories are the weapons design laboratories
• The Sandia National Laboratories (in NM and CA) develop the non-nuclear components of the weapons
• Y-12 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee manufactures the highly-enriched uranium secondaries
• The Savannah River Site extracts tritium and maintains the tritium reservoirs (feedstock for hydrogen bombs)
• The Nevada Test Site is the underground test site used to test the next-generation nuclear weapons.
• The PEIS process aims to inform the decision of where to site the “consolidated plutonium center” which would manufacture 125 new plutonium pits per year for the new weapons the Bombplex would build and maintain for the rest of the century.  DOE wishes to have this plutonium center in full operation by 2022.  In the meanwhile, Los Alamos manufactures any new plutonium pit in its small-capacity facility, the only one in the nation.

The DOE did not issue a new PEIS for this complex.  Instead, the PEIS presented is described as a “supplement” to the “Stockpile Stewardship and Management” PEIS issued in 1996.  The problem with this is that the 1996 PEIS was not for a program which included the design, manufacture, and testing of a new generation of nuclear warheads.

In the hearings concerning the siting of the “consolidated plutonium center” to manufacture 125 new plutonium pits a year for new warheads, critics cited the unclassified, congressionally-mandated report issued by the Department of Energy on November 30, 2006, which found that existing plutonium pits maintain their operational capabilities for at least 100 years.  Obviously, the new pits would be for different weapons than are now in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, since the pits in existing weapons can be re-cycled by the Pantex Plant into new weapons assemblies built to maintain existing nuclear arsenal operability.

In fact the Bush administration had described the new designs and “new missions” for “Reliable Replacement Warheads” in its Nuclear Posture Review, submitted to Congress on December 31, 2001.  These new missions included development of the “bunker buster” nuclear bomb and other “more usable” (read tactical) nuclear weapons.

Critics point out that Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty reads, “Each of the Parties to this Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty in general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”  Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that treaties ratified by Congress are the “supreme law of the land.”  The U.S. Senate ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty on March 13, 1969, and the treaty entered into force as the supreme law of the United States on March 5, 1970.

Reverend Dr. John Chryssavgis, Theological Advisor to the Ecumenical Patriarch on environmental issues, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, testified: “The question is not how much more sophisticated our plants and weapons can become, but how serious we are as a nation to lead the world with an alternative vision which interprets power differently and promotes peaceful coexistence globally.”

Global Nuclear Energy Partnership

Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing:  On November 20, 2006, the Department of Energy announced siting grants totaling up to $16 million, with $4 million in reserve, were available for award to eleven localities, six owned by DOE and five not owned by DOE.  After the awards are actually made, the recipients will have 90 days to complete the detailed study of their site.  This information about site characteristic s will be used in its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Environmental Impact Statement (GNEP EIS).  The purpose of this exercise is to select a site or sites for the “Advanced Fuel Cycle Intitative” under GNEP for which Congress appropriated $79.2 million in FY 2006.  Congress included a “Integrated spent fuel recycling” program in GNEP which had not been included in the Bush administration’s GNEP budget request.

The GNEP site selected would house the following features:

•  store virtually all the nation’s commercial spent nuclear fuel rods, perhaps for 100 years or more.  A threshold test to qualify for consideration as a site is the willingness to receive into interim storage spent fuel in dry casks that allegedly provide safe storage of the spent fuel for 50-100 years or longer.

• house the “Consolidated Fuel Treatment Center” - the reprocessing plant which extracts uranium and transuranic elements from the spent fuel rods.
• likely house the “Advanced Burner Reactor,” a new reactor designed to use as fuel transuranic elements extracted from the spent fuel rods during reprocessing.

Both the reprocessing plant and Burner Reactor would require use of commercial-scale technologies that do not currently exist.  Building them will certainly cost more than $100 billion.  Whether future Congresses would appropriate such funding and whether the technologies could be made to work makes the creation of these facilities as operational entities highly speculative.

The six DOE-owned sites receiving site characterization funding have all been in existence over 50 years.  Hanford in Washington state, Idaho National Laboratories and the Savannah River Site carried out reprocessing for plutonium and uranium for nuclear weapons production.  All three sites have substantial amounts of contaminants left from that reprocessing, cleanup of which is projected to continue to decades.  The Oak Ridge, TN, Paducah, KY, and Portsmouth, OH sites are currently uranium enrichment facilities that also have sizeable amounts of waste and contamination on site that has not been cleaned up.  The DOE-owned sites and the DOE site characterization award grantees for each site are:

  • • Hanford, WA: Tri-City Industrial Development Council & Columbia Basin Consulting Group in consortium
    • Idaho National Laboratory: Regional Development Alliance, Inc.
    • Oak Ridge, TN: Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee < /FONT>
    • Paducah, KY: Paducah Uranium Plant Asset Utilization, Inc.
    • Portsmouth, OH: Piketon Intitiative for Nuclear Independence, LLC
    • Savannah River Site: Economic Development Partnership of Aiken and Edgefield Counties

Reading the list of site characterization grantees, I hear a loud chorus of “oinks” from the local economic development interests lining up at the federal trough.  Of these local economic development groups, only the Piketon was formed to apply for GNEP funding; the rest were pre-existing.

Of the five privately-owned sites receiving awards, four are proposed by two multinational corporations: General Electric and Utah-based Energy Solutions.  The fifth is proposed by a newly-formed local economic development LLC in Eddy County, New Mexico:

• Morris, IL: this General Electric site was constructed as a reprocessing facility in the 1970s and is near the Dresden Nuclear Plants site.  The Morris Plant never operated because the pilot West Valley, NY, reprocessing plant failed to find an economically or environmentally feasible way to reprocess nuclear fuels, causing the federal government to abandon its reprocessing initiative at that time.
• The Atomic City, Idaho and Triassic Park (Roswell), New Mexico Energy Solutions sites are private sites with no known characteristics favorable to housing GNEP, and they haven’t previously been identified for any nuclear projects.  Triassic Park does contain a New Mexico state-permitted hazardous waste facility: the Triassic Park Waste Disposal Facility, which has never operated; the state license prohibits radioactive materials.
•  Barnwell, SC: Energy Solutions site contains the Allied General Nuclear Services faciltity constructed in the 1970s as a reprocessing plant.  Like the Morris site, it never operated.
• Hobbs, NM: The Eddy Lea Energy Alliance site is on private land on which the Alliance got an option to purchase.  Except for the low-level nuclear waste storage facility at Carlsbad, there is no nuclear expertise or activity within missile range.

References:  John Deutch - CoChair, Ernest J. Moniz - CoChair, et al.  “The Future of Nuclear Power,” An Interdisciplinary MIT Study, 2003.  Available on-line at <>. <>

Dr. Lovins September 11, 2005 paper on nuclear power and climate-protection potential is available on-line at < <> >

"It is worth noting that, in the USA alone, there are an estimated 45,000 sites which are polluted or potentially polluted by radioactive poisons --- according to a report commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 (see EPA 1992). Worldwide, there is radioactive pollution from above-ground bomb tests. There is also the radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl accident in Europe and the former USSR. The fact that humans have al ready created large amounts of nuclear pollution, adds to the moral argument for allowing no more."