Nuclear Power Far from a Dead Horse
By David T. Stevenson, CRI Policy Director
Dr. Sowers April 8, comparison of nuclear power to a dead horse is dead wrong. Despite the recent closure of a few nuclear power plants the remaining plants still supply 20 percent of the country’s electric power without emitting air pollution or carbon dioxide. These plants could continue operating for decades, and new small modular designs show promise in adding to this clean, reliable fleet. When wind power failed in the coldest parts of the past winter, nuclear kept chugging reliably on.
The competitive problem these plants now face is from existing wind power subsidies. For years new wind farms have received federal Production Tax Credits that pay $23 for every megawatt-hour of electricity they produce. A megawatt-hour is about the amount of power a typical Delaware household uses in a month. Wind generation generally occurs at night when it is needed the least. The credit price of $23 is about what wholesale power sells for in the middle of the night.
To sell power at night, wind farm operators can sell power at very low prices, sometimes at zero or even negative prices, knowing they will get the federal subsidy. Nuclear plants operate twenty-four hours a day, and can’t trim back generation. The nuclear plants have to meet the wind farm price and lose money they would not have lost except for the wind subsidy.
One obvious solution is to stop offering wind power subsidies. These subsidies are being phased out over the next few years. However, existing wind farms will continue collecting subsidies for their first ten years of production. Some temporary offsetting subsidy is needed for nuclear plants until the PTC disappears.
Dr. Sowers complains about nuclear power’s radioactive waste. All the waste from nuclear power plants since the dawn of the nuclear age could be stored on a single football field in a 40 foot tall stack. Nuclear generators have paid into a fund to handle the waste. The fund has paid for a storage site in Nevada that has been proven safe after exhaustive testing, plus $30 billion sitting unspent. Nuclear energy opponents have kept the site from opening. Notice renewable energy supporters have no plans, and never talk about the cost, of handling the coming millions of tons of hazardous electronic waste from decommissioned wind farms and solar panels.
Existing nuclear power plants are a national treasure that deserve support for continued operation.