The Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) points out conflicts of interests and blatant miscalculations in a recent recommendation made by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The recommendations were made were that U.S. taxpayers should subsidize 7-10 new nuclear reactors sure to cost between 10 and 15 billion each to cost about one hundred billion dollars. The recommendation was made in a new report released called The Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle.
The Executive Director for the NIRS released a statement that the MIT study acknowledges “generous financial support from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and from Idaho National Laboratory, the Nuclear Energy Institute, Areva, GEHitachi, Westinghouse, Energy Solutions, and Nuclear Assurance Corporation.”
San Francisco Energy Costs and Consumption in Perspective
For perspective, the United States consumed a total of 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2004 per NationMaster. The EIA reports that for the year of 2008, the “average” nuclear power plant generated about 12.4 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh). There were 65 nuclear power plants with 104 operating nuclear reactors that generated a total of 808.97 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), or almost 20% of the nation’s electricity.
Thirty-six of those plants had two or more reactors. The smallest nuclear plant has a single reactor with 476 MW of generation capacity and the largest has three reactors with a total of 3,825 MW of capacity.
The City of San Francisco consumes roughly 6000 GW of electricity annually per California Energy Commission Energy Demand 2003 – 2013 Forecast Staff Draft Report. CleanPower SF claims the price of electricity using clean energy will be about the same as with PG&E but without the nuclear power.
The Whitehouse makes solar deals
The President’s two new solar thermal plant proposals however, provide a context for which to compare how the business deals differ between nuclear and solar sourced power. Solar sourced can mean solar panel, solar thermal (where water is heated and in some cases steam generated to spin a turbine), or concentrated solar, where mirrors concentrate the sun’s rays into greater intensities of energy.
A Whitehouse press release dated July 3, 2010 announced the building of a solar thermal plant for a $1.45 billion dollar loan guarantee to build Solona near Gila Bend, Arizona. This is estimated to generate 280 megawatts, enough to power more than 70,000 homes. Overall, components supplied by American companies will contribute over $1.1 billion to the U.S. economy to also create 1600 jobs in Arizona and approximately 85 permanent jobs once operational.
Longmont, Colorado and Tipton, Indiana facilities will be developed with a single 400 million dollar loan guarantee to produce 840 megawatts of new solar power each year, enough to power more than 200,000 homes. The Whitehouse press release further stated “When fully operational, the plants will produce millions of solar panels each year.” The construction of the two plants will create 2,000 jobs. The company estimates the project will create 1500 permanent manufacturing and technical jobs.
Nuclear industry fantasies
According to a press release from the NIRS, the MIT recommendation is based on an estimated construction cost of $4,000/kilowatt, or about $4 billion for a 1,000 Megawatt reactor when real world estimates are ranging between $6,000- $9,000 Kwh—or 50% to more than 100% higher than MIT’s study.
“Congress would be ill-advised to follow the MIT recommendation,” said Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), “since the study relies on a construction cost estimate for new reactors that is 50% or more below current cost estimates. Reliance on such an estimate would turn a high-risk taxpayer loan into an exorbitant-risk taxpayer bailout for wealthy nuclear power companies. Congress needs real numbers when it considers spending taxpayer money, not nuclear industry fantasies.”