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Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use
its radioactivity; this approach is also being taken to achieve sustainability in all materials cycles. Although this may in the future displace in part or whole the security risks associated with storage, the technology itself, including the new facilities created and the likelihood that the reprocessed materials would need at various phases to be transported, creates new risks, for which neither the costs of appropriate controls nor any estimate of risk of breach has been calculated.23
Finally, it must be mentioned that there is also some potential in the security arena for external benefit from expanding the American nuclear energy capability, namely, the likelihood that the United States and its government could be proportionately more influential in global nuclear negotiations. Based on current developments, it is a certainty that many countries will turn to nuclear energy as the best solution to their energy needs, including many that are politically unstable or hostile to the United States; the potential that the United States could be a leader, both technologically but also politically, hinges, in the views of some (NEAC 2008), on the degree to which the United States also follows this energy pathway.
Taking the available information, the committee concludes as follows:
The direct cost of nuclear storage under present and envisioned scenarios is high, but the potential for damages from security breaches not incorporated in these costs cannot be quantified. Even if the probability of such an event or its damages could be quantified, it would still be impossible to calculate the marginal cost—that is, the risk of an additional facility to a world still populated with nuclear warheads and with many foreign countries already committing to a nuclear energy future.
As with other damage possibilities associated with the generation of electricity, the distribution of potential damages is certain to be unevenly shared. The move to Yucca Mountain or another centralized storage site, if approved, would probably reduce aggregate risk but obviously increase local and regional risk; conversely, a centralized site would reduce local and regional risks at the 100-plus sites where waste is currently disposed at U.S. government cost and at all future locations.
It is also difficult to assess the extent to which the potential damage from security risk has already been internalized. Certainly, the net upgrade of security requirements brought about by EPACT and other post-9/11 Nuclear Regulatory Commission changes has internalized some of the costs. However, because taxpayers presumably bear some of the costs in the event of a high-cost security incident (through an implicit commitment to compensate victims of the event through government relief), the degree
Note, however, that the MIT 2003 study concluded that once-through technology with permanent storage of waste material was preferable to closed fuel-cycle technologies.