Nuclear power not the answer to global warming

Environment Iowa posted an important statement here today, and I encourage you to click over and read the whole thing. I want to highlight a few passages:

   *       To avoid the most catastrophic impacts of global warming, the U.S. needs to cut power plant emissions roughly in half over the next 10 years.

   *       Nuclear power is too slow to contribute to this effort. No new reactors are now under construction and building a single reactor could take 10 years or longer, while costing billions of dollars.

   *       Even if the nuclear industry somehow managed to build 100 new nuclear reactors by 2030, nuclear power could reduce total U.S. emissions over the next 20 years by only 12 percent. […]

In contrast to building new nuclear plants, efficiency and renewable energy can immediately and significantly reduce electricity consumption and carbon emissions. The report found that:

   *       Efficiency programs are already cutting electricity consumption by 1-2 percent annually in leading states, and the wind industry is already building the equivalent of three nuclear reactors per year in wind farms, many of which are in Iowa.

   *       Building 100 new reactors would require an up-front investment on the order of $600 billion dollars – money which could cut at least twice as much carbon pollution by 2030 if invested in clean energy. Taking into account the ongoing costs of running the nuclear plants, clean energy could deliver 5 times more pollution-cutting progress per dollar.

   *       Nuclear power is not necessary to provide carbon-free electricity for the long haul. The need for base-load power is exaggerated and small-scale, local energy solutions can actually enhance the reliability of the electric grid.

Click here to download “Generating Failure: How Building Nuclear Power Plants Would Set America Back in the Race Against Global Warming.” Other excerpts from the executive summary:

Nuclear power is expensive and will divert resources from more cost-effective energy strategies.

   * Building 100 new nuclear reactors would require an up-front capital investment on the order of $600 billion (with a possible range of $250 billion to $1 trillion), diverting money away from cleaner and cheaper solutions. Any up-front investment in nuclear power would lock in additional expenditures over time.

   * Over the life of a new reactor, the electricity it produces could cost in the range of 12 to 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, or more. In contrast, a capital investment in energy efficiency actually pays us back several times over with ongoing savings on electricity bills, and an investment in renewable power can deliver electricity for much less cost.

   * Per dollar spent over the lifetime of the technology, energy efficiency and biomass co-firing are five times more effective at preventing carbon dioxide pollution, and combined heat and power (in which a power plant generates both electricity and heat for a building or industrial application) is greater than three times more effective. In 2018, biomass and land-based wind energy will be more than twice as effective, and offshore wind power will be on the order of 30 percent more effective per dollar of investment, even without the benefit of the renewable energy production tax credit. (See Figure ES-2.)

   * By 2018, and possibly sooner, solar photovoltaic power should be comparable to a new nuclear reactor in terms of its per-dollar ability to prevent global warming pollution. Some analyses imply that thin film solar photovoltaic power is already more cost-effective than a new reactor. And solar power is rapidly growing cheaper, while nuclear costs are not likely to decline.

Please send this link to friends who believe we must expand nuclear power in order to meet our electricity needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has also concluded that “the U.S. does not need to significantly expand its reliance on nuclear power to make dramatic cuts in power plant carbon emissions through 2030-and that doing so would be uneconomical.”

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