Australian Nuclear Power and Corruption and Incompetence
My good friend* Francis Spufford says that the Concorde supersonic airliner project cost the British government 900 million pounds and in return for that investment they received 7.2 million pounds in profits from ticket sales and 9.3 million pounds when they sold Concorde, for a total of 16.5 million pounds. That is, Concorde lost the British government 883.5 million pounds. And this was a project that was supposed to help the economy.
This is one reason why I am cautious about a nuclear power plant in Australia. Big projects can have big cost overruns. They also tempt companies to push costs onto taxpayers and I'm not entirely sure that our politicians will be able to resist pleas for free or discounted water use, waste disposal, security, legal costs, decommissioning and insurance. Also, many Australian politicians in power now seem so far up George Bush's colon that they are in good position to remove pretzels from his windpipe when he chokes on them, so it is just possible that contracts will go to American companies even if they are not the most cost effective. So it is not enough for nuclear power to be cheaper than other low emission alternatives, it has to be cheap enough to compensate Australians for the almost inevitable incompetence and corruption that attaches itself to these sorts of projects.
While problems can certainly exist for smaller scale energy sources, competition and previous experience help to cut down on corruption and incompetence. There are thousands of people in Australia who could prepare foundations and pylons for wind generators, but not many who can put together a nuclear reactor. I mean, could you do it? Do you know anyone who can? And Nuclear Irvine doesn't count as he is an atomic vampire who can only be killed by shoving a graphite rod through his heart.
So while nuclear plants could become an important low emission source of base load power in the future, any plans to build them should carefully take into consideration the possibility of extra costs due to corruption and incompetence.
*As we are both members of the Silly Name Club we are automatically good friends.