Hot Potato: Food for Thought
Where Did All the Money Go?
Nuclear Power
1997 July 18

Nuclear power was supposed to provide power that would be "too cheap to meter." The reality has turned out to be less agreeable. In fact, nuclear power is a great burden on the rate payer. Whenever a new nuclear plant has gone on line, rates have increased. These plants cost so much more to build than was budgeted that the anticipated savings in fuel costs turned out to be insignificant.

The fuel costs also turned out to be higher than expected. By a variety of indirect means, these costs were subsidized by the federal government. While uranium itself is reasonably cheap, the required enrichment is very expensive. Dealing with radioactive waste products is more difficult than was ever anticipated, and remains, in fact, an unsolved problem. Nobody knows what it is going to cost.

Finally, it is now estimated that dismantling a nuclear power plant will cost as much as building it in the first place. The rate payer will undoubtedly have to pay these costs as well. The US can consider itself lucky that the problems of nuclear power became apparent before too many plants had been built.

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