November 12, 2009

Nuclear Roundup - New Plant Costs are Coming Down and Why Amory Lovins is Wrong in Three Parts

1. The official price tag for Georgia Power's share of two new reactors at Plant Vogtle is $1.5 billion lower than when the company requested permission to build them, according to testimony Tuesday in front of the Georgia Public Service Commission.

Projected construction costs dropped, Mr. Burleson said, because the company is avoiding some interest by charging its customers for the reactors before they begin operation.

Customers are paying about $1.30 per month for the reactors; the charge will rise by that amount each year until it tops out at $9.00 per month. When the plants open in six years, the surcharge should stop.

2. Amory Lovins is wrong when he says that nuclear power will increase the cost of building clean energy to reduce CO2

EPRI study shows the cost of implementing major CO2 emissions reductions is significant, development and deployment of a full portfolio of technologies will reduce the cost to the U.S. economy by more than $1 trillion. Less than half of these savings would be achievable if the future electricity sector generation portfolio does not include advanced coal with CO2 capture and storage or advanced light water nuclear reactors.

Stewart Brand indicated:

It turns out that [Lovins’] arguments against the economics of nuclear power work only within the narrow commercial boundaries he defines, which increasingly no longer apply, and he focuses mainly on the US. His reasoning has no traction in relatively dirigiste economies like France, Japan, and most developing countries, especially China and India; if those governments want nukes, they build nukes. More important, the loom of climate change has altered everybody’s perspective on costs and risks.

3. Amory Lovins fails to rebut - "solar and wind power are not baseload". Solar and wind can be connected to the grid and no one said differently. Solar and wind are not baseload power.

“’Baseload,’” she [Gwyneth Cravens] explains in the book, “refers to the minimum amount of proven, consistent, around-the-clock, rain-or-shine power that utilities must supply to meet the demands of their millions of customers.”

Wind and solar, desirable as they are, aren’t part of baseload because they are intermittent—productive only when the wind blows or the sun shines. If some sort of massive energy storage is devised, then they can participate in baseload; without it, they remain supplemental, usually to gas-fired plants.

4. Amory Lovins cherry picked his data on the land footprint of different energy sources.

Three sources cited in the Lovins study concluded that nuclear uses much less land than solar and wind. Clearly, the authors of those studies consider the open areas between wind turbines and the large arrays for solar plants a requirement to function. Yet the Lovins study clearly manipulated the numbers from those sources to fit its own beliefs. Thus, it’s not Brand and Cravens who believe in a land footprint “myth”, it’s Mr. Lovins.

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