What is the True Cost?

In 2021 the nuclear industry once again showed the American taxpayer its true colors. Federal indictments, bribery scandals, environmental injustice, funding uncertainty, unkept promises, radioactive waste, and the realization that nuclear energy is unnecessary are a few issues that come to mind.

In Idaho, NuScale scaled back plans for 12 small modular nuclear reactors (SMNRs) as subscribing municipalities backed out one by one. Michael Maragos, senior policy analyst of energy and natural resources with Taxpayers for Common Sense said in January, “the reason is simple. It’s going to cost a lot, probably more than we’re expecting now, and ratepayers are going to be on the hook.”

Despite a massive marketing push, the appetite for so-called “advanced”reactors is waning. In December, Taxpayers for Common Sense issued a scathing 18-page report supporting what we have been saying for years; nuclear energy is too expensive, too dirty, and too dangerous. Even so, nuclear corporations are lining up for government handouts and getting them.

There is also the small problem of fuel. Large, traditional nuclear reactors use uranium enriched up to 5% with uranium-235.  Most so-called “advanced” small nuclear reactors need high-assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel, which is enriched to between 5-20%. Only Russia has HALEU in significant amounts and, keeping in mind the war posturing over Ukraine, does buying HALEU from Russia seem realistic? Even so, we would likely need to buy it from Russia and ship it here, endangering every living organism along the way, unless we start enriching uranium here. 

NuScale’s isn’t the only project lined up to test “advanced” nuclear reactors in Idaho. 

  • Final Environmental Assessment (EIS) for the Department of Energy’s MARVEL micro nuclear reactor was recently returned with Finding NO Significant Impact
  • Oklo Power, LLC out of California wants to build the Oklo micro nuclear reactor. Although Oklo’s application was denied by NRC on January 6th, 2022, they’ll be back.
  • The Department of Defense has plans for a mobile microreactor at Idaho National Lab.

Nuclear energy wouldn’t be possible without government welfare. Nuclear waste must be treated, stored, secured, transported, and heavily guarded for thousands of years. That is a heavy cost on future generations. According to Lazard’s 2020 Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis, nuclear energy is the only energy form that is actually increasing in cost while energy storage and renewable options are plummeting. 

So the next time you’re somewhere and hear “nuclear energy is the best option,” just ask them “do you know the true cost?”