Limited Liability – Nuclear Energy’s ‘Mother of all Subsidies’

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 6, 2011 (IPS)

The nuclear energy industry only exists thanks to what insurance experts call the “mother of all subsidies”, and the public is largely unaware that every nuclear power plant in the world has a strict cap on how much the industry might have to pay out in case of an accident.

In Canada, this liability cap is an astonishingly low 75 million dollars. In India, it is 110 million dollars and in Britain 220 million dollars. If there is an accident, governments – i.e. the public – are on the hook for all costs exceeding those caps.

Japan has a higher liability cap of 1.2 billion dollars, but that is not nearly enough for the estimated 25 to 150 billion dollars in decommissioning and liability costs for what is still an ongoing disaster at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Seven weeks after the tsunami caused the disaster, radiation levels continued to spike higher.

No one knows when the reactors will finally be in cold shutdown, or when the costs of theFukushima disaster will stop piling up. One report suggests decommissioning will take 30 years.

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Japan’s credit rating was downgraded because of the accident, noted Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based energy and nuclear policy analyst who has worked in Japan. “The Japanese know it’s just a matter of time before another large earthquake occurs,” Schneider told IPS.

“Japan will never build another nuclear plant.
Continue reading

Fossil Fuel Industry Kings of Corporate Welfare

This graphic from GOOD magazine shows who gets the bulk of the enormous US energy subsidies. Many subsidies are hidden and difficult to estimate and this attempt looks to be low according to the experts I’ve interviewed for various articles (cited below). The graphic also doesn’t include subsidies for nuclear which are equally enormous.  — Stephen

The enormous fossil fuel subsidies are rarely acknowledged when complaints are raised about costs of renewable energy. This report shown below says subsidies for fossil fuel are 12X that for green energy but this is a gross underestimate based on the experts I’ve interviewed in June for this article Free Ride for Oil and Coal Industry May Be Over.

Subsidies experts in Switzerland told me that “two-billion-dollars-a-day public subsidy for carbon-based fuels is a very conservative estimate..”

In reality big oil and coal get more like 20X the money green energy. So let’s do some real pricing: electricity from coal 5 cents kWh X 20 for subsidies (not to mention free use of the atmosphere /environment for its CO2, mercury etc waste products.) Corporate welfare at its best.

A few of the many articles I’ve written on the subject of energy subsidies:

Fossil Fuel Subsidies Are 12X (more like 20X) Support for Renewables, Study Shows

Every Day Governments Give an Estimated $2 billion to Oil, Coal & Gas Industry

Oil Companies and Special Interests Spend Half a Billion Dollars to Defeat US Clean Energy – Study

Nuclear Power Costs Skyrocket, Cost of Renewables Plummet

Is Rio Earth Summit 2.0 Doomed to Fail?

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Mar 7, 2011 (IPS)

Timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, the Rio 2012 Summit hopes to recapture the optimism of that earlier era.

At the June 2012 Rio Summit it is hoped countries will agree on policies to move toward a green economy from the present “brown” economic system driven by fossil fuel energy and the serial depletion and degradation of natural resources and ecosystems. A green economy promises to bring good jobs, clean energy and water while ensuring a more sustainable and fairer use of resources.

“If we continue on our current path, we will bequeath material and environmental poverty, not prosperity, to our children and grandchildren,” said Rio 2012 Secretary-General Sha Zukang.

“Rio 2012 will be one of the most important events in the coming decades,” Zukang said

Continue reading

A Fatal Addiction to Plastic – Trashing the Oceans and Our own Health

Ocean trash art - plastic soda bottle tops, lighters, misc bits of plastic

By Stephen Leahy

KAUAI, Hawaii, U.S., Apr 1, 2011 (IPS)

“Be fantastic, don’t use plastic!” chanted a troop of 10-year- olds from President Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Honolulu at the conclusion of an international conference on the millions of tonnes of trash that enter the oceans every year, with serious consequences for marine life and habitats as well as to human health and the global economy.

Most participants were in a celebratory mood at the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference, which concluded Mar. 25 with the Honolulu Commitment to address the growing problem of marine debris.

But Captain Charles Moore, the man who brought the world’s attention to the scope and scale of the problem, was not celebrating.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and every year it has only become worse,” Moore told IPS.

Moore is famous for revealing the immense amount of plastic in the north Pacific gyre, formed by ocean currents in a massive slow-moving whirlpool thousands of square kilometres in size.

Moore’s Algalita Marine Research Foundation documented that this vast expanse of oceans has about six kilogrammes of plastic for every kilogramme of plankton. He is careful to point out that there is no plastic island as reported in some media, it’s much more dispersed. Continue reading

April Heat Wave and Drought Breaks European Records

From the coldest December ever recorded to the warmest, driest April  Britain is just one of the countries being whipsawed by extreme weather. Normally wet Scotland is experiencing rare wildfires outbreaks this week. Europe’s wheat crop is at high risk due to very hot and dry temps.

My recent science articles explaining why weather extremes are becoming more common:

Why Our Weather is Weird ‘n Wild and Why It Is Getting Worse

The Yin and Yang of Climate Extremes We Will See More of

Will Year of Climate Extremes End Without Progress on Tackling Climate Change?

10 Years in the Amazon: The Forest Vanishes Before Your Eyes

Amazon Forest 2000 - The state of Rondônia in western Brazil

The state of Rondônia in western Brazil — once home to 208,000 square kilometers of forest (about 51.4 million acres), an area slightly smaller than the state of Kansas — has become one of the most deforested parts of the Amazon. In the past three decades, clearing and degradation of the state’s forests have been rapid: 4,200 square kilometers cleared by 1978; 30,000 by 1988; and 53,300 by 1998. By 2003, an estimated 67,764 square kilometers of rainforest—an area larger than the state of West Virginia—had been cleared. Source: Amazon Deforestation – NASA

See also: Amazon Drought Accelerating Climate Change   The REAL Amazon-gate: On the Brink of Collapse Reveals Million $ Study

Amazon Forest 2010 - The state of Rondônia in western Brazil

Award-winning Journalist and Author

I’m an award-winning journalist and author who has covered international environmental issues for more than 20 years.

My work is featured in publications around the world including National Geographic,  The Guardian (UK),  Vice Motherboard,  Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS), Ensia, Al Jazeera, New Scientist, The Ecologist, Mo Magazine (Brussels), TerraGreen (India), Toronto Star, Maclean’s Magazine, China Dialogue, Earth Island Journal, and DeSmog Canada.

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