Nuclear power can only survive with state aid

Tom Adams
National Post
October 17, 2003

Tom Adams’ response to “Think tank predicts need for nuclear plants necessary to meet growing demand,” published by The Globe and Mail, October 17, 2003. The Globe and Mail article discussed a study conducted by the Canadian Energy Research Institute posted on the Canadian Nuclear Association’s Web site at:

Letter to the Editor
The Globe and Mail
(This response has not yet been published)

The Canadian nuclear industry’s latest lobby effort to secure government subsidies has arrived in the form of a report purporting to examine “the key economic dimensions of the nuclear industry.”

Like previous nuclear lobbying studies, the new study confuses costs with benefits. For example, nuclear power’s labour intensiveness relative to power sources like natural gas-fired generators, is reported as a benefit. The study ignores the most important issues in nuclear economics – investment risk, government handouts, cost overruns, production declines, and the perverse incentives flowing from federal legislation limiting nuclear liability in the event of accidents.

Reducing subsidies reveals that the costs of nuclear power outweigh its benefits. The clearest case is in the UK where power privatization and competition have revealed nuclear power to be a money pit. The private nuclear company, British Energy, cherry picked the best 15 reactors from a fleet of over 30 and paid only half the cost of construction of the 15th reactor. The government also extended to British Energy its legal shield protecting government nuclear operations from liability in the event of accidents. Despite these advantages, British Energy still failed to pay its bills and is now being renationalized.

As The Times of London noted earlier this month, nuclear power can only survive with “state aid – on a grand scale”.


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