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Final Nail in Nukes’ Coffin?

Huge cost overruns, construction delays, and subsidies doom nuke renaissance – “Things have not gone as planned”

[Update Р3/29/17 Рseven years and billions of dollars later:

Salem NJ Nuclear Power Plant

[Update: 11/15/09 – more nails – The reactor relapse takes 3 hits to the head ]

In a devastating story, the New York Times Business page lands what could be a knockout blow to the nuclear industry’s attempt to revive nuclear power. Nuke industry PR has argued that new “safe” and “cost effective” engineering designs have solved the safety and economic issues, while the global warming crisis warrants a huge expansion. But the Times story destroys those myths, on purely economic grounds:

In Finland, Nuclear Renaissance Runs Into Trouble
Published: May 28, 2009
OLKILUOTO, Finland — As the Obama administration tries to steer America toward cleaner sources of energy, it would do well to consider the cautionary tale of this new-generation nuclear reactor site.
The massive power plant under construction on muddy terrain on this Finnish island was supposed to be the showpiece of a nuclear renaissance. The most powerful reactor ever built, its modular design was supposed to make it faster and cheaper to build. And it was supposed to be safer, too.
But things have not gone as planned.”

At the same time construction costs are escalating, the industry is seeking even more subsidies by taxpayers and electric rate-payers.
The Times story is a huge warning to the Obama energy planners and to State level public utility regulators and policy makers.
Would NJ Legislators and/or the BPU allow electric consumers to get stuck with footing the bill for a failed technology?

According to the Times story:

In the United States, Florida and Georgia have changed state laws to raise electricity rates so that consumers will foot some of the bill for new nuclear plants in advance, before construction even begins.”
The industry has had more success in getting states to help raise money. This year, authorities permitted Florida Power & Light to start charging millions of customers several dollars a month to finance four new reactors. Customers of Georgia Power, a subsidiary of the Southern Co., will pay on average $1.30 a month more in 2011, rising to $9.10 by 2017, to help pay for two reactors expected to go online in 2016 or later”.
But resistance is mounting. In April, Missouri legislators balked at a preconstruction rate increase, prompting the state’s largest electric utility, Ameren UE, to suspend plans for a $6 billion copy of Areva’s Finnish reactor.”

Any move by NJ BPU to allow rate increases to subsidize nuclear construction risks would be a political nightmare.
Finally, would private investors ignore “warning lights” and take on investment risks under current (and projected) market and regulatory conditions?

“On top of such problems come the recession, weaker energy demand, tight credit and uncertainty over future policies, said Caren Byrd, an executive director of the global utility and power group at Morgan Stanley in New York.
The warning lights now are flashing more brightly than just a year ago about the cost of new nuclear,” she said.”

All this is something to watch for as the Corzine Energy Master Plan – which embraces new nuclear power capacity – moves towards implementation.

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  1. skip3house
    June 6th, 2009 at 10:21 | #1

    Where are the figures to compare nuclear construction to windmills and replacing coal plants?
    Just how many windmills will it take, at what cost? Back-up when the breezes stop?

  2. nohesitation
    June 6th, 2009 at 10:31 | #2

    skip3house – Good question.
    On economic grounds, by far the most profitable (ROI) energy investment is “negawatts” or conservation.
    Suggest you Google “Amory Lovins” and “Rocky Mountain Institute”. They have done detailed economic analysis and comparisons you have asked about.
    Right here in NJ, the BPU Energy Master Plan includes costs models that examine capital and operating costs of wind and nuclear, side-by-side comparison. Do the Google of “BPU” “Energy Master Plan”.
    I can’t post links in comments section.

  3. nohesitation
    June 6th, 2009 at 10:38 | #3

    skip3hous – I forgot to add that BPU Energy Master Plan also looks at the capacity issues adn the technology reliability issues (i.e. what happens whe the wind doesn’t blow adn the subn don’t shine).
    BPU has not looked at phasse out of NJ coal plants, which is a flaw in the plan, as all those plants are major poluters adn have exceeded their desing life. Ratepayers are forced to subsidize major investmetns in pollution control upfgrades at cvoal plants that should be shut down ibnstead and all that pollution control monet spent on efficeincy andr renewables.
    Finally, centralized high tech nuclear is the most technologically vulnerable system configuration. Small scale decentralized point of use is the most efficient adn MOST RELIABLE.
    Small is beautiful and profitable.
    BPU doesn’t tell people that, because PSEG has a lock on policy.

  4. skip3house
    June 6th, 2009 at 20:27 | #4

    Just curious, meant no criticism.
    Only wonder if just NJ/USA can change weather, at what cost monthly in our bills, and whether our coal supply advantage is being neutered?
    Are we being practical, or unilaterally disarming?
    Do power plants use much oil, or mostly coal/nuclear? Do you see our oil use dropping (imports, too)?
    Thank you for additional sites for details.

  5. nohesitation
    June 7th, 2009 at 07:57 | #5

    skip3house – response, in order of your comments:
    1. I think you meant climate, not weather. Big difference. Use Google.
    NJ/USA contribute to a common pool problem – I don’t have the data on NJ/USA GHG emissions as a percentage of world emissions, but, even that data doesn’t recognize at least 2 scientific realities that raise equity concerns: a) emissions are cumulative due to residence time of CO2 in atmosphere. This means historic USA emission from over 100 years of industrialization are having impacts; and 2) complex systems are unpredictable – google the story of the butterfly flapping it’s wings and causing” a storm thousands of miles away.
    2. In terms of cost, you are looking at this all wrong (as are many others). The real costs of energy are externalized and mostly hidden. What are the costs of disruption in agriculture and the world food system? Water supply? Security and migration? Google for recent studies by the Pentagon and CIA regarding the national security threats and costs of climate change.
    Now how much per month does your energy really cost?
    Do you still think coal supply is an “advantage”?
    That’s like saying asbestos mines are an asset.
    3. Coal still provides almost 50% of US electric power – we are not disarming. Actually that’s agoood analogy, because coal plants are like nuclear missiles – they threaten the world.
    4. US electric power plants use far more coal than oil. Primary oil use is in transportation. Google US Department of Energy – they provide comprehensive statistics on fuel use.
    Our oil use will have to drop as a result of “peak oil” – Google “peak oil” andn “Hubbert”. US oil production is already past it’s peak and in decline. Many think world oil production is just at our past peak.

  6. nohesitation
    June 7th, 2009 at 08:00 | #6

    skip3house – all good questions and comments – no criticism perceived here.

  1. November 27th, 2009 at 12:44 | #1
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  3. July 10th, 2017 at 21:58 | #3
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