Dying Nuclear Power Industry

Subsidies to nuclear power reactors are among the most obvious instances of the federal government acting as a wealth pump for large corporations. Now, companies that operate these expensive and dangerous power plants are looking for additional wealth pumping from state governments. If those of us who support cleaner, cheaper and much less dangerous power can’t stop them, our state governments will have less to invest in education, clean energy and other beneficial work because more will go to extending the life of a failing nuclear power industry.

We might start by looking at the Price-Anderson Act. It was first passed in 1957 and has been renewed as needed since. It puts a cap on the amount of damages for which a commercial reactor can be held liable. For 2017, that amount is $450 million per reactor. (Read the linked Wikipedia article for details.)

It seems like a big number, but it is pretty small when compared to what is possible. In December of 2016, the Japanese government estimated the cleanup costs for the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster at $190 billion. That’s “billion,” not “million.” For an equivalent disaster in the United States, insurance would cover $0.45 billion, leaving the government to cover the other $189.55 billion. Continue reading “Dying Nuclear Power Industry”

What Is a Wealth Pump?

The main thing about wealth pumps is that those of us who have the business end of wealth pumps applied to us do not like them.


I first ran across the expression “wealth pump” in a 2012 post “The Nature of Empire” that appeared on “The Archdruid Report.” It struck me as an admirably straightforward and simple explanation of the purpose of an empire:

With this [preceding 13 paragraphs] in mind, we can move to a meaningful definition of empire. An empire is an arrangement among nations, backed and usually imposed by military force, that extracts wealth from a periphery of subject nations and concentrates it in the imperial core. Put more simply, an empire is a wealth pump, a device to enrich one nation at the expense of others. The mechanism of the pump varies from empire to empire and from age to age; the straightforward exaction of tribute that did the job for ancient Egypt, and had another vogue in the time of imperial Spain, has been replaced in most of the more recent empires by somewhat less blatant though equally effective systems of unbalanced exchange. While the mechanism varies, though, the underlying principle does not.

You may have run across the expression elsewhere, earlier or later than 2012. In any case, I found that the idea of a wealth pump is useful well beyond its application to the principles of empire. Continue reading “What Is a Wealth Pump?”