Would GE make more money by decommissioning reactors?

In the United States today, there are thirty-five boiling water reactors, of the same type as at Fukushima.

Nuclear decommissioning costs around $325 million per plant. So if all the GE plants were to be decommissioned immediately, GE (which would be awarded the decommissioning contracts since it’s its design), would have revenues of 35 x $325 million = $11.4 billion.

Of course, with a little discreet lobbying, I’ll bet that GE could choreograph Congress into ‘forcing’ it to engage in a more cautious decommissioning process, which could cause the cost to rise to $1 billion per plant.

In other words, by shutting down nuclear power tomorrow, GE could have short term revenues of $35 billion.

Alternatively, it could keep trying to build nuclear power plants. Over the past thirty years, it has been able to clear political hurdles in order to have only one new reactor built. Let’s see, cost of new reactor is $6 billion, divided by thirty years . . . is $200 million/year.

And let’s face it, the political hurdles just got a lot higher.

So if I were the CEO of GE, I think I would now suddenly have the ‘courage’ to call not just for a moratorium on building new reactors, but also for the immediate decommissioning of all GE reactors. That would boost profits by approximately 1500%.

But how do you phase out nuclear power without causing a renewed energy crisis that leads to economic collapse? Well, that’s the sweet part. All you have to do is get out of the way, and solar energy will take over the energy market within the next five to ten years.

According to wikipedia:

As of 2010, solar photovoltaics generates electricity in more than 100 countries and, while yet comprising a tiny fraction of the 4.8 TW total global power-generating capacity from all sources, is the fastest growing power-generation technology in the world. Between 2004 and 2009, grid-connected PV capacity increased at an annual average rate of 60 percent, to some 21 GW

In other words, global solar power is .5% of total power, and at a 60 percent annual growth rate, it will reach ten percent in five years and 100 percent in ten years. So even at current trends, solar power was going to make new nuclear plant construction unnecessary within the next decade.

Breakthroughs in solar power technology will soon render solar power as cheap as paint (because it will be paint). How is the nuclear industry going to compete with that? Big as GE is, I don’t see it winning a battle against the Sun.

Now, there are some things that GE could do to speed up the process. It could for example, promote solar power boondoggles. No, wait, that would actually slow solar power development.

How about, GE promotes tax legislation to provide deductions for home solar power installation? And deregulating and streamlining the home installation process? And maybe, ahem, licensing patents on key solar technologies rather than hiding them in the vault in the vain hope of promoting nuclear power instead?

I don’t know. I’m just looking at the numbers. Thirty-five billion dollars for decommissioning US nuclear plants, versus maybe nothing for building another nuclear plant after all the legal fees are paid.

And of course, if one of those reactors goes haywire, will the public demand that GE pay? And if a city is irradiated, will the government be able to let the CEO off the hook like it did with the Banking and Gulf Spill crises? Or will it need a scapegoat this time?

Maybe the CEO of GE won’t back down from nuclear power because of human pride. Well, suppose a group of hedge fund managers were to get together, and use their GE stock leverage to oust the CEO. Then they put in a new CEO, who declares he wants to shut down all reactors. GE stock will plummet, at which time the hedge fund managers buy up all the outstanding shares of GE. Then the government announces $35 billion (or more) in decommissioning contracts to GE, and GE stock bounces back and goes through the roof, and the hedge fund managers are looking pretty sharp at that point.

Well, I’m just a little engineer and don’t know anything about the world of high finance. I really don’t even have much of an idea of how the world is really run or who really runs it. But I do know that, in the aftermath of Fukushima, a little radioactive rain falls upon us all. And for whoever is running the world, it’s also falling upon his lawn. And that’s probably annoying to him. I wouldn’t want to be the person or persons held responsible for causing that annoyance.

About engineerzero

Once and future engineer.
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