TXU goes Nuclear- (rant)

A Wall Street Journal article today reports that TXU is planning on using nuclear power to replace the coal plants which they shelved recently.

This drives me batty. I do think that nuclear power is better than coal, and even better than IGCC, but basically substituting nuclear power for coal power is just replacing one nasty externality (CO2 emissions) with another: adding to the risk of nuclear terrorism and waste disposal problems.

When expected costs of CO2 are factored in, the price of nuclear power does looks good. But I ask the same question people are finally asking about global warming: “What’s the business case for destroying the planet?”

Here’s what we should be thinking for our baseload energy needs:

  • Energy Efficiency…. 1-3 cents per kWh
  • Concentrating Solar Power with thermal storage…. 10-15 cents per kWh (and dropping)
  • Wind power, combined with pricing mechanisms to shift demand…. 4-6 cents per kWh
  • And for peaking power:

  • Demand Response
  • Time of Day Pricing
  • Concentrating Solar Power with large scale thermal storage and an oversized turbine
  • Eight steps forward… six steps back. Do we really need to dig up mountains for uranium instead of decapitating them for coal?

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    5 Comments

    1. Preston said

      I’m with you on this one. It’s like they thought they could fix TXU by caving on the coal plants and bringing in the nuclear. Who wants to be the state that tries to figure out what to do with all the radioactive waste? They’re just trying to plan for increases in demand, which makes sense, but the right people need to be finding ways to do more with less energy (i.e., utilize more of the sun).

    2. I’m not I agree, Tom. At a Goldman Sachs event on “the business of climate change” last week, there was a spirited discussion of nuclear. Someone (an environmentalis or academic, as I recall) said there are four big problems with nuclear (1) cost (2) waste disposal (3) terrorism/safety (4) proliferation. He was talking about nuclear for China and India, as well as the U.S. All are big problems but perhaps we should focus on trying to solve them, rather than take this carbon-free alternative off the table.

    3. Tom said

      Marc, I agree we should be trying to solve those problems.. but before we build new nukes.

      My biggest worry is your #2. If I saw real progress being made on our current nuclear waste problem… I.e. if it actually went to a long term storage facility (like Yucca Mountain was *supposed* to be) I’d be a lot more happy with new nukes. The cost issue is not one I’m all that worried about… except for the fact that nuclear does not pay it’s full costs, in terms of limited liability for accidents and waste disposal.

      I think if we were really serious about it, we could probably deal with proliferation… but at the expense of cost. Other than waste disposal, I see the other issues as externalities that are currently not being paid for.

    4. Ann Garrison said

      TXU owns Cameco-Uranium-Gold-Fuel-Electricity. Its accident at a Canadian uranium mine just drove the spot price of uranium from $75 to $113/lb. I’ve seen the cost measured only in dollars, not rads, thus far, but the water contamination looked ghastly, maybe even worse than that which occurred on July 16, 1979 on the Navajo Reservation, when 1100 tons of uranium mining tailings and 94 million gallons of radioactive water burst through U.S. Nuclear’s earthen dam into the Rio Puerco.

      The only terrrorist involved in 1979 was U.S. Nuclear; the only terrorist involved this year in Canada was TXU. The Environmental Defense/NRDC engineered buyout of TXU is one of the worst cases of greenwashing I’ve seen yet. —Ann

    5. [...] they will have trouble meeting future demand… this was the justification for the coal plants (now mostly replaced by nuclear) planned by TXU. But these projections massively underestimate the potential of imporved energy [...]

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