Separation of Scales Arguments in Nuclear Energy Economics and the Failure to Account for Environmental Racism

Authors: Ian Percel*, University of Calgary, Joyce Percel, University of Calgary
Topics: Energy, Economic Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Nuclear Energy, Spatial Statistics, Environmental Justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8224, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Separation of scales is a premise in physics that spatio-temporal models at different scales can be isolated from one another. When used appropriately, this enables theoreticians to simplify complex models while retaining their essential predictive power. However, in what ways does the misapplication of this idea to energy economics obscure spatially-localized risks with long-term consequences? Many cost-benefit analyses isolate costs within the energy market through assumed individual payments to those harmed by energy production activities. This approach ignores the cumulative externalities that impact communities of color, particularly Indigenous populations in the US. Consequently, the question of who pays the real cost of a technology is obscured by the aspatial character of the model. This concern echoes analyses from other geographical studies of environmental racism. We conclude that in order to meaningfully evaluate the merits of an energy policy proposal with a decades or centuries long time horizon, it is essential to incorporate the long term impact of spatially correlated risks to human welfare.

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