While covering hearings in Sacramento and San Francisco last month touting the promises of nuclear power I wondered what the presenters had been sipping. There\u2019s renewed interest in nuclear generation in the U.S. and around the world, they said, insisting California should go through the looking glass and embrace fission power. To them, a major sales point is using nukes to help the state meet its carbon reduction goals to stem climate change. Nuclear proponents also told state lawmakers last week that over the last 30 years plants have become more productive and there have been no meltdowns. The leader of a group pushing to build a power plant in Fresno is enthusiastic about pursuing nuclear power development in California in spite of the moratorium in place since 1976. He and others insist it\u2019s a choice between dirty power and carbon lite nuclear facilities--making as much sense as painting white roses red. Nuclear plant development did not get factored into state regulators\u2019 designs for growing renewable energy supplies and harvesting carbon emission reductions. The state is moving away from coal because of its prohibition on utility contract renewals with out-of-state coal generators that emit more greenhouse gases than a natural gas-fired plant. Those facts, however, do not get in the way of the leader of the group promoting a nuclear project in Fresno. Sounding like a mad hatter, John Huston, Fresno Nuclear Energy Group president, said he would not be deterred by state law. He said he\u2019ll bypass California Energy Commission licensing and go straight to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for certification. He did admit that lining up financing is not yet firm. He also appears not to be deterred by that fact that new nukes are prohibited in the state until a national long-term waste dump is built. The Yucca Mountain repository plans fell apart last year. However, with Republican gains in the House efforts to revive them are expected. Pro-Yucca Mountain factions, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ), are likely to try and go around Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) who has fought against building a radioactive waste dump in his state. Admittedly there have been advances in nuclear power development--but we should resist the brew being offered. Uranium-fed reactors are hugely expensive--with capital costs in the billions of dollars. Cost overruns are common. They can\u2019t be built without loan guarantees provided by the Department of Energy. For nuclear developers, Wall Street financing is as elusive as the Cheshire Cat. Federal loan guarantees are critical, but address only part of a plant\u2019s economics. Think Constellation\u2019s decision to back out of partnering with France\u2019s EDF to build a 1,600 MW facility in Maryland, in spite of a $7.5 billion loan guarantee. Even before construction began, the project suffered cost overruns that doubled original estimates. To make matters worse, the output would be sold into the PJM market and the drop in natural gas prices also made the investment unsound. A key financial issue is: Who plans to buy the plant output if the developer is not a regulated utility with captive ratepayers? Without a specific power purchase agreement then a project development will be as successful as the Dodo\u2019s unwinnable Caucus Race in Alice in Wonderland, particularly with the drop in energy demand. In Texas, the likelihood of NRG building a nuke also is slim at best. The company got into a legal dispute with the City of Antonio over the escalating multi-billion price tag and the city pulled out earlier this year, leaving no takers for the energy. Another blow was the decline in natural gas prices. Mid-term Republican gains in Washington may be welcome by nuclear advocates, but it doesn\u2019t change the economic reality of nukes. \u201cThe projects most likely to go ahead are those with the \u2018belt and braces\u2019 of Federal loan guarantees and a state regulatory body that commits to allowing the utility to recover its costs from consumers,\u201d according to Stephen Thomas, University of Greenwich Professor of Energy Studies. To date, only one of the nearly two dozen new nuclear projects in the U.S. announced three years ago is going forward. That is a Southern Co. project in Georgia. Southern landed an $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee. Nuclear plant owners also depend on insurance that would stick much of the liability on taxpayers following a major accident. An accident like the 1986 meltdown at Chernobyl would cost U.S. taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars under the federal Price Anderson Act. (Price Anderson provides taxpayer insurance for nuclear power plants, as private insurance companies are averse to underwriting nuclear disaster risks.) Even if the financing was not as treacherous as the Queen of Hearts, consider how difficult it is for natural gas power plants, which are far less expensive and dangerous, to get sited. Power projects in the South Coast Air District, including CPV- and Edison Mission Energy-proposed plants, sit in limbo because requisite emission offsets are unattainable. Maybe we should be like Alice and not be too concerned because in reality nuclear proponents are as threatening as a deck of cards. But then again, that threat diverts limited regulatory resources away from pressing issues, including ensuring we achieve a safe, sustainable, and clean energy future.