Hooray for Nuclear Power!

From the Georgia Public Policy Foundation:

Then there’s nuclear power. The industry is governed by an enormously expensive and dense regulatory and security framework designed to safeguard the general public. Since the 1978 accident at Three Mile Island and the 2001 terrorist attacks, regulations and licensing have grown increasingly stringent. Despite the advances in safety and security, no new units have begun construction since 1973. Abroad, especially in France and Japan, nuclear energy has flourished.

Now, however, several factors favor a nuclear renaissance. The first is President Bush’s approval of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which includes significant incentives for the industry to expand output:

* Up to $2 billion in cost-overrun support for a maximum of six new plants
* Production tax credit of 1.8 cents per kilowatt-hour (up to $125 million total per year) during the first eight years of operation for the first six megawatts (MW) of capacity $3 billion in research subsidies
* 20-year extension of liability caps for accidents
* Federal loan guarantees for new plant construction

Furthermore, in recent years the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has streamlined its licensing processes. No longer can endless appeals and challenges from organizations such as Greenpeace hold up plants indefinitely. A $917 million 2008 budget for the NRC supports new reactor design and project implementation. Then, there are fading memories of Three Mile Island, state incentives for new projects (10 reactors are slated for Texas alone), and popular concern with climate issues.

11 comments

  1. chief alewife says:

    Fascinating that the “small government” foundation should be promoting the ultimate big government electric power source. Without massive public subsidy this one works nowhere. Which firm is the largest nuclear power generator in the US? TVA perhaps?

  2. I’ve yet to hear where the waste generated from these plants will be stored. Yucca Mountain? That was supposed to go online in the late 1990s. On-site storage facilities here in Georgia are at or near capacity. If we are to build 3,498 reactors in the United States as McCain has suggested, where do we store the waste? How secure will those facilities be? How much does that factor into the cost?

    Those are the long-term questions that I haven’t seen addressed.

  3. Ronin says:

    I think that some environmentalists are “seeing the nuclear light”. One of the Greenpeace founders started pushing for it a few years ago.

    The truth is, we are going to need the additional power for the electrical grid if we all start driving electric cars as McCain is suggesting. Although coal burning is much more efficient than gasoline in individual vehicles, I don’t think we can burn enough coal to keep the electrical grid at capacity.

    (BTW, I want a Tesla Roadster)

  4. Doug Deal says:

    Thomas,

    You only need 500 reactors to supply all of our electricty. McCain suggested building 50. Stop making numbers up.

    The wastes generated by nuclear, taken as a whole, are a lot less hazardous than pretty much any other practical and scalable form of energy.

  5. Doug,

    ‘Twas a joke. The reason I say that is because of McCain’s comment that the U.S. has no reason not to generate 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear a la France. That would take a lot of reactors. He says we should aim for 100 by 2030.

    But I’m not trying to argue about politics — my concerns are about policy. I ask this not to be confrontational, but as a serious question: If the waste isn’t nearly as hazardous as other forms of electricity, why are we planning to bury it deep in a mountain? Could that waste be recycled or reused for anything? And with the growing problems of water shortages around the country, how are we going to cool these reactors?

  6. Icarus says:

    At the risk of getting into the geek land of Doug and MsBassSinger, I know the french use a different type of reactor than most US, which uses more of the fuel and generates less waste by-product.

    I’m sure they will come along and tell me that I’ve way over simplified that description, or that I’m just wrong (I’m not), but that’s O.K.

  7. Ms_midtown says:

    I knew little about nuclear power, I wanted to be an informed voter, so after a few hours on the web I know way more.

    2 reactors Hatch and Vogtle, provide 20% of Georgia’s power.

    Another factor is water usage, nuclear and coal are heavy on water consumption. Natural gas low. There is gadzooks on the web about nuclear power, don’t fall for any bull this November. It’s an easy issue to learn about.

    Here a few link on water usage
    http://204.154.137.14/technologies/coalpower/ewr/pubs/EPRI%20Envir%20Sector%20Mtg%20Feeley%20Sept%202004_1.pdf

    Power generation and water in georgia
    http://www.cleanenergy.org/pdf/GAwaterreport.pdf

  8. Doug Deal says:

    Midtown,

    Your post is ridiculous. You are claiming that every ounce of water that a nuclear plant takes in is consumed. That is like saying that a hydro-electric plant consumes every bit of water that flows over the top.

    Nuclear reactors can be cooled by two methods.

    One is to use a “closed” loop system where water goes in a loop through the plant, to condense the steam that has passes through the steam turbines. This water is cooled in a cooling tower by evaporating a small part of it. To make up for the part lost to evaporation, additional water is added from a local river.

    The other approach is to use a “one pass” method. In this method, water is taken from a river, and about 1/50 th of it is evaporated to cool the bulk, with the rest returning to the stream. This is where eviron-mentals get their “water use” stats. They count ever gallon that is taken into the plant as consumes, which it clearly is not.

    When you account for returns, power generation actually only “consumes” a small fraction of the water “used” out of the system.

  9. ChuckEaton says:

    The state of Georgia in one of the fastest growing states in the union. Due to our prosperity, and its required energy demands, we have an energy forecast requiring some major baseload capacity at the beginning of 2016.

    There are essentially 2, or possibly 3, forms of energy that can meet this major baseload demand: Nuclear, Coal, and possibly Natural Gas.

    Each form of energy has it’s pros and cons.

    Nuclear – Very cheap to operate and virtually no emissions, but extremely expensive to build and the radioactive waste.

    Coal- Less expensive to operate, although increased demand from China and India have caused the price per ton to double from where it was last year. Another negative is the carbon emissions and almost certain action by Congress regarding some sort of carbon tax. No knowing how significant the tax will be, it could have a substantial impact on our electric rates, makes it difficult to forecast this choice against Nuclear and Gas.

    Natural Gas- Cheap to build, but very expensive to operate. It also burns fairly clean. The price volatility and exponential increase in the cost of Gas, makes this option extremely risky. This was once considered a choice for peak electricity, but now is considered for baseload capacity. Many states, like Florida, have opted for Natural Gas due to it being a great short-term solution. Unfortunately for Florida, like an adjustable rate mortgage, their residential ratepayers are starting to pay significantly more for their electricity; 36% more than Georgia to be exact.

    Our domestic gas supplies are dwindling, and not being able to drill in major reserve areas is going to make us more dependent on imported natural gas. Its expected that natural gas prices will continue to soar.

    The great irony is Cuba is leasing blocks to China and India to drill in the same reserves we are banned from drilling. In the future we could buy imported natural gas from India and/or China that comes from our coastal reserves.

    Florida is the biggest roadblock to this drilling, but has become one of the biggest gas users when in comes to electrical generation – a bit hypocritical.

    Here is a link to a recent GA Trend interview I did regarding this subject: http://www.georgiatrend.com/features-people/05_08_chuck_eaton.shtml

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