|Arjun Makhijani is president of the Institute
for Energy and Environmental Research and author of Carbon-Free
and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy. His e-mail
address is email@example.com.
New plants are risky, costly and unnecessary,
says ARJUN MAKHIJANI
Luminant Energy, formerly TXU, is proposing
to build two Mitsubishi nuclear power reactors at its Comanche Peak site,
where two reactors are already in place.
This is part of a national wave of new commercial
reactor proposals after a three-decade lapse in new orders – eight in Texas
alone. Having failed miserably to deliver on the 1950s promise that nuclear
electricity would be "too cheap to meter," the industry now says
it will save us from climate change. If you don't like coal, you have to
take nuclear, goes the nuclear establishment's hopeful mantra.
That's a false choice. Replacing coal with
nuclear is risky, costly and unnecessary.
Renewable energy sources are quite sufficient
to provide ample, reliable electricity. For instance, Texas has greater
wind energy potential than its present electricity generation from all
sources; it is greater also than the output from all U.S. nuclear power
plants combined. And it has barely captured a whisper of its potential.
Wind energy is competitive with or more economical
than nuclear energy – about 8 cents per kilowatt-hour in good areas. A
recent independent assessment by the Keystone Center, which included industry
representatives, estimated nuclear costs at 8 to 11 cents.
Intermittency is not a significant issue until
very high levels of penetration. For instance, a 2006 study prepared for
the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission found that an increase of just
over 2% in operating reserves would be sufficient to underpin a 25% renewable
energy standard supplied by wind.
Meanwhile, Solar energy is somewhat more expensive
today, but costs are coming down rapidly. Last December, Nanosolar produced
first solar panels costing less than a dollar a watt at its factory
in Silicon Valley.
In January, MidAmerican Energy Holdings, which
is owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, dropped plans to build
a nuclear power plant in Idaho, on the grounds that it could not provide
reasonably priced energy to its customers.
New nuclear plants would add to the country's
problem of nuclear waste. The federal government has long been in default
of its obligations to existing nuclear plant operators to take the waste
away from their sites. Nuclear utilities have had to take the government
to court to recover added storage expenses, which will cost the taxpayers
billions or possibly even tens of billions of dollars over time.
To imagine that the federal government will
take charge of waste from new plants where it does not even have contracts
is wishful thinking. Much more likely, Texas will be stuck with it.
And then there is the problem of cooling water.
The two proposed reactors would consume about 40 million gallons of water
per day. Even assuming that the water is available, Texas is risking a
less reliable power system, given that droughts are estimated to become
more extreme in a warming world.
For instance, last September, a nuclear unit
at Browns Ferry belonging to the Tennessee Valley Authority had to be shut
down for lack of water. In contrast, solar photovoltaics and wind-generated
electricity do not need water.
Luminant's two reactors are already discharging
significant amounts of tritium-contaminated radioactive water into the
Squaw Creek reservoir. New reactors would only add to those discharges.
Before proceeding with new reactor proposals,
Luminant should at least investigate how it might reduce existing tritium
discharges. Tritium is radioactive hydrogen, which displaces ordinary hydrogen
in water to form tritiated water, which becomes radioactive as a result.
The notion that renewable energy cannot supply
the electricity requirements of the United States has been widely put forward
without careful technical evaluation.
On the contrary, it is nuclear that is the
risky course. Texas can remain an energy leader in the twenty-first century
– but only if it steps out ahead of the coming renewable energy revolution.
Nuclear Power Cannot Solve Climate Change
March 27, 2009
By Katherine Ling
A new report finds that nuclear
power plants cannot be built quickly enough and in a safe and secure manner
to be a major global solution for climate change
power plants cannot be built quickly enough and in a safe and secure
manner to be a major global solution for climate
change, according to a report released yesterday from the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace.
The report says the nuclear industry, under
current policies and financing, won't be able to build enough new reactors
to make a difference in climate in the next 20 years.
"Without major changes in government policies
and aggressive financial support, nuclear power is actually likely to account
for a declining percentage of global electricity generation," the report
The International Energy Agency's World Energy
Outlook 2008 projects that without policy changes, nuclear power's share
of worldwide electricity generation will drop from 15% in 2006 to 10% in
But policymakers should be aware of the timeline,
costs and risks
nuclear power brings as compared to the possible benefits, before expending
a tremendous amount of resources on it, the report says.
Bottlenecks in the nuclear supply chain, weak
infrastructure in developing countries and tighter credit risk management
strategies in the wake of the economic crises will severely limit all countries'
capabilities to significantly expand their nuclear fleet, while the current
fleet of reactors is likely to be retired by 2030, the report said.
The earliest the first new U.S. reactor could
be finished is 2015, but the report notes that it takes about 10 years
to put a new plant in service, from licensing to connection to the grid.
In two dozen countries that are interested in obtaining civil nuclear energy
but have not previously built a reactor, it will take even longer, the
"The exigencies of energy security and
climate change do not warrant racing ahead before institutional frameworks
can ensure that any expansion makes sense, not just for energy needs, but
for world security," the report says.
The report argues that nuclear
energy is not likely to have a significant effect on energy security,
It will take at least two decades to convert
the world's car fleet from oil to electricity. Transportation is the only
sector where nuclear energy can significantly replace oil.
In addition, uranium and nuclear fuel come
from only a few countries – Canada, Australia, Russia, the United States
and France – making nations without resources or technologies as dependent
on foreign sources of energy as before, the report notes. Worse still,
it says, the need for fuel may drive more nations to develop their own
uranium enrichment facilities, raising the risk of the proliferation of
Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from
Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net,
Dans le même esprit:
Nuclear Energy: Rebirth or Resuscitation?