How would you feel about a nuclear power plant being built in your area?  If you’re like most people (60%), you’d oppose it. So what’s up with the 40% who would be pleased as pie to live near a nuclear power plant?  How many of them would change their minds if they learned of the lax regulation and state of decrepitude of most plants in the United States?

In a recent article in The Nation, investigative journalist Christian Parenti exposes the dangerous reality of “zombie nuke plants” that are allowed to continue operating (sometimes at 120% capacity!) after their licenses expire.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) routinely renews the licenses of 20+ year old plants that do not meet today’s safety standards, including plants that are leaking radioactive substances into drinking water.  And, lest we not forget, we still don’t have anyplace to store the spent fuel during the 10,000 years it will take to cool.

Nuclear power isn’t just dangerous, it’s outrageously expensive.  At $10-$18 billion per plant (not counting cost overruns), the nuclear power industry is hard-pressed to find investors or insurers who will put up that kind of money.  Ratepayers in California are still paying off $25 billion in stranded costs of the Diablo Canyon plant built in San Luis Obispo in 1985.

Despite all these drawbacks, the NRC has 19 applications for license renewals and a handful of applications for new plants, and the Obama administration has offered up to $54 billion in loan guarantees.  As a solar company, we can only dream of what we could achieve, with $54 billion (and we’re pretty confident that far fewer than 40% of Americans would object to living next door to a rooftop PV array).

Share your thoughts:  If you were energy czar, what would you do with a cool $54 billion?

–Erica Etelson

Posted by Danny Kennedy

Danny Kennedy co-founded Sungevity and now serves as strategic advisor. He is an internationally recognized opinion leader on climate and energy issues. He is the author of Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy - and Planet - from Dirty Energy (2012), a book that has been described as the clean energy manifesto for the next greatest generation.