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Sunday, May 08, 2011

Dot E


Andy Revkin's latest Dot Earth piece, on how it's Overhaul Time for U.S. Nuclear Overseers, starts with the following apoplexy-inducing paragraph:

I’m convinced that the United States will be better off keeping existing nuclear power stations running, where their management can be demonstrated to be reliable, rather than initiating a decades-long decommissioning process that would not resolve community concerns about spent fuel and many other sources of risk.

I found it hard to continue beyond this, but the story is important enough to read on.

What was so upsetting about the above? Let's pick it apart and see. It is full of hidden assumptions and faulty logic.

keeping existing nuclear power stations running

Unfortunately, nuclear power plants get less reliable and more dangerous the longer they're in use. Does Revkin mention this? No.

where their management can be demonstrated to be reliable

Let's be charitable and take Revkin's managerial reliability assumption as read, and see where that leads us. They might be reliable now, but are there any factors which could or would change that during the lifetime of these plants? Like financial meltdown, peak oil, peak everything, for example? Of course not, silly me.

rather than

The decommissioning process has to take place anyway, so there is no rather than. It's an as well as. Revkin's showing a temporal bias here, completely discounting the future, only allowing for the impacts in the present. That's the kind of short-sightedness which has helped propel us into our current mess.

initiating a decades-long decommissioning process

It's implied here that somehow keeping the plants going will prevent their decommissioning, and all that goes with it. Or that somehow in the future decommisioning won't take as long, or that we'll be better able to decommission in the future than in the present. Dubious unstated assumptions.

that would not resolve community concerns about spent fuel

The longer you run them, the more spent fuel, Andy, so there's something more than slightly awry with your logic here.

and many other sources of risk

Great catch-all. There's still an underlying conceit that by putting all this off things will get better, that in the future there will be fewer risks. That's an assumption I wouldn't dare make.

The big risk is putting things off until mañana in the naïve hope that things will get better, when all around us is evidence demonstrating the contrary.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Literally.

Dot E.


Posted by Phil at 7:22 PM
Edited on: Sunday, May 08, 2011 8:06 PM
Categories: Comment, Environment