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March 28, 2021

Scrap nuclear power, even if it means higher hydro bills?

Discussing any storyline outside the catastrophic human loss still unfolding in Japan is tricky, but if we concede that, of course, the world mourns for the tragedy facing the island nation, there are several secondary issues worth discussing.

1343381_danger_radioactive_2 The most apparent: the planet’s contested, continued reliance on nuclear energy.

That’s what has every country buzzing in the wake of Japan’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which has led to the near-meltdown of a nuclear plant that doesn’t want to cool, even weeks after it first lost power.

What has detractors in a fuss is, why does the world insist on producing power through nuclear energy, a source insiders insist is very safe but one with several high-profile pockmarks on its résumé?

While Japan may not get there, advocates of energy sources like wind and solar most notably compare the ongoing crisis to the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl debacles – isolated, uncommon instances on the larger nuclear timeline, though heartbreaking reminders that when nuclear reactions are mishandled, however rare that may be, it becomes a calamity unlike any other.

Here we are then, in 2011, facing an old issue once more. Is the cost-effectiveness of nuclear power enough to outweigh the chance of disaster?

Because let’s not pretend it all doesn’t come down to cash for Canadians. Despite initiatives for new wind farms in Quebec and other green movements, money talks more than anything else in the long run. For any objections, please note that not only was Earth Hour a total bomb in PEI, power usage actually rose in Alberta during the conservation campaign thanks to an Oilers-Flames hockey game.

It comes to this: according to an independent study conducted last year by NuclearFissionary.com, nuclear power costs about four cents per kWh to produce, compared to eight cents per kWh for wind and a whopping 22 cents per kWh for solar. (Both production and construction costs were considered in the survey; hydroelectric proved to be the cheapest power source, but geographical restrictions – a lack of suitable locations to build structures like the Hoover Dam, for example – may prevent the method from ever become a standard source.)

So, in light of the risks facing Japan, motions by some Canadians suggest moving away from nuclear power. But at what cost?

Would you be willing to pay more for your hydro bill if it meant no threat of nuclear disaster, or is keeping consumer power costs low the primary issue here?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...