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Missing Link In Freakonomics Argument on Nuclear

So a movie is to blame for the hesitation over nuclear? Not so much. And Dean Baker puts into his post what I was thinking all this weekend about the the Freakonomics article in the NYTimes Magazine last week.

Freakonomic’s fellows argue that The China Syndrome scared us silly, prevening us from rationally considering the harm done by subsquent Three Mile Island. Err, the bigger issue as Baker points out, was that the lack of transparency in how the Three Mile Island folks handled the disaster. Being wary as a result of future projects seems incredibly logical to me…

Writes Baker: “One thing that we did learn from the accident was that the safety personnel and company officials running the plant did everything they could to conceal the problems at the plant absolutely as long as they could. Only when it was clear that matters were getting out of control did they finally notify the regulatory authorities to both get their assistance and allow them to take necessary precautions. Of course no one was punished for their actions.”

And beyond this lesson, let’s not forget the financial lesson we learned from the earlier boom in nuclear buildouts. The projects ran into huge cost overruns, eventually costing tens of billions of dollars and pushing up the cost per kilowatt to the point that that dream of essentially free energy that was promised? Didn’t happen.

Little wonder it took decades for financiers to want to touch nuclear. And now that they are, they’re looking for as much as $50 billion in loan guarantees…

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