Fallout from Japan

While there is hysteria over radiation from Japan reaching the United States, the real fallout could be the effect of Japan’s nuclear accident on the nuclear industry in the United States.

It’s very possible that only two or three new nuclear plants will be built in the US, specifically in Georgia, South Carolina and at the TVA, and that’s because they are already under construction or nearly so.

As noted previously, the nuclear failures in Japan will result in political pressure to stop building nuclear power plants in the U.S.

So what will be the end result, since we will need to build new power generation capacity to support our growing population and desired increase in economic activity?

The environmental movement is on the verge of shutting down nuclear power in the US, is trying to eliminate coal-fired power generation, and is attacking fracking that makes natural gas power generation inexpensive. If they are successful, it will lead to blackouts and high-cost electricity.

The UK is the canary in the coal mine, as its nuclear industry is being dismantled, coal-fired power plants are not being built and the country is relying on wind power.

But will environmentalists actually succeed in crippling generation of electricity in the United States?

America has, I believe, lost the battle for nuclear power, but there is still time to save coal-fired and natural gas power generation.

The nuclear battle was lost because people were ill-informed about nuclear technology. Those who opposed nuclear could play on fear to persuade people to be against nuclear power.

People need to become informed about coal-fired power generation and why it is essential for a prosperous future – and why the fear mongers should be ignored.

The coal industry itself must stop pussy footing around when it talks about coal.

The CEO of Peabody Energy spoke about the benefits of coal at the CERA meeting in Houston, but then weasel worded about how 100 carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) projects are needed around the world.

He undermined his argument about coal because he inferred it was bad when he said 100 CCS experiments were needed. He was trying to placate the environmental movement, and instead, pointed a finger at coal as a producer of CO2 emissions.

He was right when he said ultra-supercritical coal plants should be built to replace existing coal-fired power plants, as well as to increase our total generating capacity.

Coal and natural gas combined cycle power plants are the only power plants that can provide reliable, inexpensive, abundant electricity. Wind and solar are unreliable, expensive, small producers of electricity.

The following tables, from earlier articles, demonstrate the relative costs of different methods for producing electricity.

Table II shows the construction costs adjusted for capacity factor.

TABLE I

Method Fuel & Operating Costs Costs incl. Depreciation Construction Costs
Traditional Coal $0.02 /kWh $0.04 /kWh $2,000 /KW
Ultra Supercritical Coal $0.02 /kWh $0.06 /kWh $2,800 /KW
Natural Gas Combined Cycle (see note) NA $0.06 /kWh $1,200 /KW
Nuclear (See note) $0.02 /kWh $0.10 /kWh $5,000 /KW
Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle(Without CCS) NA NA $5,000 /KW
Note: Nuclear costs have been increasing, while the cost of electricity from NGCC unitshas been declining due to fracking.Table updated 3/18/11

 

TABLE II

Alternative Capacity Factor Construction Costs
Wind, land based 30% $6,600 / KW
Wind, off shore 39% $6,200 to $12,800 / KW
Solar, PV 16% – 25% $24,000 to $37,000 / KW
Solar, concentrating 22% – 30% $12,000 to $16,000 / KW
Ultra-supercritical coal 80% $3,500 / KW

 

 Equally important, ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants reduce NOx, SOx, particulates and mercury emissions to an extremely low level.

This information must be made available to the general public, without sugar-coating to placate environmental groups.

The natural gas story must also be told, especially why fracking is environmentally safe.

Nothing is totally risk free. Driving a car and riding in an airplane entails risk. In each case, the benefits far outweigh the risk. The same is true for ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants and natural gas combined cycle power plants, and fracking – benefits far outweigh the risk.

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