One nuclear incident neatly packaged into a periodicity of 20 years is only an idealization.
Yeah, of course, the calculation was a bit rough. One would have to determine which securities an insurer has to provide in order to be able to insure nuclear incidents. And from day one of course. The model for insuring things like this is to say: we (the insurance company) print some papers, you can buy them for money, there is a number on them which indicates for how much you can buy those papers back, and in the case of an incident, that number falls by the cost for the incident, and regularly the amount payed by the insured is added to that number, reduced by a fee for the insurance company. The insurance company invests the money somewhere, so that it is taken care of, and in the case of an incident it sells those investments and pays for the damage. And people buy those papers in order to get interest for the money they invested.
It would be imbued with the highest order of training, professionalism, and selfless excellence, and completely isolated from any influence of profit motive whatsoever.
Governments are huge organisations, where all things are done the same way to spare costs, and later on one finds out that there is one critical error, and one has to power down and change all reactors in the whole country, etc. If you have a free market with competing ideas, you get many different setups, and the best will prevail, and some few generations from now one will have far more experience than with one unified approach.
And the other thing to consider is, that energy companies will do a very detailed assessment of which technology to use. And if all costs are internalized for them, they will chose the most efficient technology, and it doesn't always have to be nuclear. And they will spend far more time in finding out which technology is most efficient.
After all, nobody denies that SOME THINGS only governments can do justice to. Is this not one of those things?
I fully agree that there are some things where governments usually do the best job at. One example would be infrastructure. Water, telephone, postal services, all of them are best run where the owner's goal isn't to make as much profit as possible, but where the service is the most important part. And service in all parts of the country, or of the city. Don't lay new water pipes in the rich quarter every five years, only because there enough premium payers are, and in the poor quarters of the city you have the pipes from 1830.
But power is a very equalized good, you can't introduce any social inequalities through it.
Fine; you've loaded the cost onto the ratepayers, which is just about everyone
No, if the nuclear plant owners insure their plants, only they have to pay the rates. This makes the cost for nuclear power more expensive, and if its still competitive, nuclear plants will be built, if its not, none will be built. This way the market determines which technology is really the cheapest.
you have also made some low-life parasitic scum in an insurance company rich as lords, which there is no need or excuse to do.
Their job is to collect investors to get securities, and to assess risk in order to determine a price. There is a free market for their service, and if you want to get rich yourself, feel free to do it, or, as insured, chose a cheaper competition. They aren't more parasitic than investors. They make money with your work. This is what an economy is about: let specialists do the job, don't do it yourself.
Let the society as a whole "insure" the plant owners against catastrophes, as they largely do now. Then it's still the same "everyone" paying the cost, but you've eliminated the parasites.
If the government does the job of controlling the plants great, its all good. But still the costs need to be internalized somehow, otherwise this is subsidies for nuclear plants. So a good way would be over a tax for nuclear plants. Will the government really use the income from that tax to save for an incident? Or will it use it to pay for something the politicians promised to their voters? And when the incident happens, will the government take loans? Even after the paris attacks, which is a fairly small incident economy wise compared to a nuclear catastrophy, the french government announced they will take more loans now.
And I think the analysts working for an insurer are much better than the government people, after all, their paycheck is much larger, so the best of the best won't go the government career way. So one can chose between the good people or the bad people doing the job.
I would make society as a whole the builders and operators of the plants.
This could work, yes, but many people don't like the socialist approach. I can live with it if things are properly run, but don't get your country into an international trade deal, as often one of the clauses is access to your market for foreign companies. So you would have to create and maintain a state monopoly, quite a task.
It's 40 years later and we can make reactors that are safer by orders of magnitude than the 100s we've been using for decades that have been working perfectly.
The only thing we have to do is build them. Being able to do something is one thing, doing is another. And I don't think we will accomplish that. It will be called "too expensive" or such.
Precisely. If you want to run at 100% all the time, you will need reliable power. Otherwise you have to build oversized capacities. It is possible to build plants that tolerate varying energy input, but it comes at a cost. It is cheaper to build up overcapacities and use the energy when its available cheaply, than to only use energy when it is available and otherwise stop production, but it is even cheaper to just use traditional energy sources. So the fact that this company has adapted to the changed situation in germany doesn't mean that germany is now more competitive on the international market. Businesses will think twice before building a plant in germany.
And both are reliable as hell. Some parts of the world don't have those resources though, and if we don't do anything to prevent, the oil owning states will sell their stuff precisely to those countries, and they will create the carbon you just spared with your nice little carbon prevention policy.
Note: I am no american. I am EU citizen.
Their waste is much less problematic than the waste for nuclear power.
If we deplete all traditional fuel resources of our planet, it will be much less hospitable than it now is.
How do you internalize the cost of a rare catastrophe (which would probably bankrupt any insurance company)?
There is a report by russia today that fukushima has cost $105 bn. Greenpeace (which hates nuclear power) claims a damage of $205 bn. So, the range of nuclear meltdown damages is in the range of hundreds of billions of dollars. Now, the insurance company munich re reports that they had to pay $31bn in 2014. I really think that it is doable to scale their business. So basically, there is one nuclear incident every 20 years world-wide. Lets be generous and say it costs around $400 bn. Now, the nuclear industry would have to pay $20 bn every year for such an insurance, world-wide. With a number of 438 reactors, that's $44 million per year. Energy companies make much much more with nuclear power on reactors in average than this amount, don't you think?
Why don't we start by internalizing the external costs of fossil fuels? That will drive us to alternatives REALLY quick.
Full agree. This is improperly internalized.
Weather is something far larger scale, it affects whole countries. And there is also seasonal change which always affects one hemisphere, so you needed to brige the double of the distance to the equator here, to equalize with an energy grid.
What is the difference between a taxpayer and a customer?
If the company has to pay the bill, they will probably chose another technology if the risk is too high for them to lose their capital due to an atomic incident. From the regulatory side one only has to ensure the company can actually pay the bill, either through their own capital, or through an insurance.
It is enough to keep the current breed of scientists busy the next 30 years.
I'm not sure how science funding works, but I guess you would get far more scientists work on the problems if you invested more money into the field. I know, it would probably lead to the "every medicine research paper is cancer research" situation where scientists find convoluted ways to declare their work is in fact for fusion, but I guess there will be real additional effort spent as well.
This would be one of the benefits of an international institution: it would ensure that the plants either run well, or don't run.
Just require that every atomic plant owner makes an insurance, for which you require that they have proper securities. This then levels the cost for an incident over the whole nuclear industry. The insurance company will then take care of the security of the plant, because it will be inside their economic interest to avoid nuclear incidents. Right now its in the economic interest of the energy industry to spare on security, so that they have less costs. Munich re can cope with tens of billions of dollars, without any discussion about their solvency.
Yeah, I really think the US can make it. You have this (dimensionally) great country, you just put some hydro storage plants, and it is done. Other regions of the world which are more densely populated will have greater problems, but the US can actually do it. The only question is to get the actual political descision to do it. Right now the US energy politics looks like: "we want cheap oil, and if we don't get it, we invade (or start a revolution or whatever) a countrythat has oil and install a conformant government", and I guess its cheaper than just building the hydro plants, but the actual cost for the planet is higher.
I don't doubt that there will be a technical way to solve all these problems, whether with batteries, or with creating methane on periods with high energy, and burning it on periods with low energy, or with just simply.
But there is one very high problem:
Traditional energy resources will always be cheaper. Simple as that.
Your fanciest battery technology won't make the actual price you pay for energy from renewable resources cheaper than the extraction costs for fossile energy sources. And if that isn't provided, the owners of the gas and oil fields will just simply provide energy at a lower price than yours, and will still get customers. And you can be the greenest guy ever, if your neighbour country burns all the fuel now, because you aren't interested in buying it anymore, you haven't won a thing for the planet.
There is no other way to limit global carbon production than by creating a global cap for carbon output, and by enforcing that cap.
"Today's robots are very primitive, capable of understanding only a few simple instructions such as 'go left', 'go right', and 'build car'." --John Sladek