Environmentalists Debunk 'Myth' About High Costs of Nuclear Power

Image: Environmentalists Debunk 'Myth' About High Costs of Nuclear Power Cattle graze near the Sacramento Municipal Utility District's Rancho Seco Nuclear Power Plant near Herald, Calif.

Thursday, 23 May 2013 12:29 PM

By Dan Weil

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Nuclear energy is more economical than solar energy, say environmentalists Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal.

"Over the last several decades, the cost of electricity from solar panels has declined dramatically, while the cost of building new nuclear plants has risen steadily. This has reaffirmed the long-standing view of many environmentalists that it will be cheaper and easier to reduce global warming emissions through solar electricity than with new nuclear plants," say the co-founders of the Breakthrough Institute.

"But while continuing price declines might someday make solar cheaper than nuclear, it's not true today. Yet the mythmaking persists."

To make their case, Nordhaus and Shellenberger point to an ongoing battle in Finland over a troubled nuclear power plant expected to cost $11 billion by the time it starts up in 2016 and efforts in Germany to make solar power the dominate energy producer while taking "effective action on global warming."

"All of this has led many to conclude that electricity from Germany's solar power is far cheaper than Finland's new nuclear power will be. The opposite is the case," they write, noting that the nuclear plant will produce electricity at 7 cents per kilowatt hour while German's solar generation will cost 32 cents.

"In short, solar electricity in Germany will cost almost five times more for every kilowatt hour of electricity it provides than Finland's new nuclear plant."

"Over its 60-year lifetime—which can be extended by relicensing—the Finnish plant likely will generate more electricity than Germany's solar panels ever will," they said, making note of the fact that solar panels have only a 25- to 30-year lifespan.

Despite the costs, they still favor the development of solar power. But they say "the insistence that solar is ready to play a major role in meeting our energy needs today is both delusional and irresponsible."

"Anyone truly concerned about climate change will need to reconsider their opposition to nuclear," They said. "It is the best chance we have to make big reductions in carbon emissions quickly."


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