Six Reasons Why Nuclear Power is Not Sustainable

1. URANIUM FUEL IS FINITE
uranium-mineUranium is a metal that must be extracted from the earth. Unlike sun and wind, our supply is finite. We’ve already mined the most accessible sources and at current (let alone expanded) rates of use, cost-effective sources will be exhausted in about a century from now. Plutonium (which is man-made in nuclear plants) is in some cases being substituted for uranium, but it is the most toxic substance on the planet and increased use dramatically increases the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.

2. NUCLEAR POWER IS NOT CARBON-FREE
While a nuclear plant emits negligible CO2 in operation, the mining, milling, fabrication and especially enrichment of uranium fuel rods are very carbon-intensive. In fact, there are whole utility-size coal power plants that are devoted to powering existing US uranium enrichment facilities. Also, the huge amount of materials, principally energy-intensive concrete, required to construct the necessary containment structures for nuclear plants is also very carbon- intensive. Conservative analyses have found that nuclear power is 7 TIMES more carbon-intensive than its closest renewable competitor – wind power generation.

Roughly 10 million people in the US live within 50 miles of an abandoned uranium mine.

NOTHING CLEAN ABOUT IT
There are more than 15,000 abandoned uranium mines in the United States. Corporations walk away from these radioactive sites leaving the cost of clean up to the public. There are no federal laws that require clean up of these hazardous sites. You can learn more at CleanUpTheMines.org.

3. NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS ARE UNIQUELY THREATENED BY CLIMATE CHANGE
All nuclear plants require constant and massive amounts of water to cool their superheated cores. Besides contributing to thermal pollution of lakes, rivers, and bays, the plants simply can’t operate if their coolant water becomes too warm or is unavailable due to drought. Many nuclear plants are located at or near sea level and will be increasingly threatened by severe weather and sea level rise. (The Fukushima disaster happened when catastrophic flooding knocked out their cooling systems, resulting in a meltdown.) There have also been several instances where nuclear plants have had to shut down during heatwaves. This is absolutely a concern as our ocean and air temperatures continue to rise.

As extreme weather events become more common, new concerns arise about the safety of nuclear power plants

SEVERE WEATHER EVENTS RAISE CONCERNS
In 2011, flooding of the Missouri River enveloped the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant in Nebraska. Nearly every nuclear power plant in this country is located next to a body of water, many in tornado, earthquake, or hurricane-prone regions.

While the Fort Calhoun plant did survive the 2011 flood (pictured left), it was closed town for good on October 24, 2016 because it had simply become too expensive to operate. Even shut down, the decommissioning process for this facility will take 60 years and will cost an estimated 1.5 billion dollars. The plant was 43 years old.

4. NUCLEAR POWER CANNOT EXIST WITHOUT HUGE GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES
With recent focus on downsizing government and cutting back on unsustainable services and subsidies, it’s odd that little attention has been paid to the continuing billions of taxpayer dollars going every year to prop up an aging nuclear industry. The industry receives countless tax breaks, government research and loan guarantees for new plants, and the biggest subsidy of all – the Price-Anderson insurance policy. This policy limits plant owners liability to roughly $12 billion in costs for major accidents, even though numerous studies (and proof in Japan) project the cost of a nuclear accident to be hundreds of times that amount – all of which will be bankrolled by us, the taxpayers.

Take Action

Sign the Petition: Stop the $100+ Billion Nuclear Bailout

Learn about the many subsidies (our tax dollars) given to the nuclear industry in this report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

5. SMART POWER GRIDS OF THE FUTURE REQUIRE VERSATILITY
Nuclear facilities do not have the versatility and resilience necessary for our future power needs. Nuclear power can only be minimally cost-effective when generated in huge centralized facilities, which by nature have to run on a continual basis (as base-load power). The necessity for immediate shutdown (known as a scram) of a nuclear plant whenever threatened by outside events or internal accidents means that blackouts and other crisis situations will be intensified very quickly. (This was demonstrated recently in Japan.) The smart power grid of the future will be adaptable to rapidly changing circumstances, and an inflexible, centralized, vulnerable power source like nuclear will not integrate well into that system.

6. WE STILL HAVEN’T SOLVED THE ISSUE OF WASTE STORAGE
Nuclear waste remains radioactive for millions of years. The half–life of Uranium 238 is 4.5 million years. No one has figured out how to sustainably store radioactive waste for the tens of thousands of years required for public safety. The recently concluded nuclear storage project debacle at Yucca Mountain has left us with about 70 de facto unsecured, long-term nuclear waste dumps around the country in the form of nuclear plant on-site dry cask storage and spent fuel pools. Nuclear countries in Europe have not fared much better, despite having 60 years of experience trying to grapple with the problem.