Friday, July 18, 2008

The Cost of Nuclear Power

Via Andrew Sullivan, here's a post from the New Republic blog citing a report to the Senate by Joe Romm saying that "nuclear power is still far more expensive than a lot of the other alternatives to fossil fuels."

The article talks about how heavily subsidized nuclear plants in the US have to be and how the cost of the electricity they produce doesn't make them worth it.

Which makes me wonder...how the hell do the French do it?

In France, as of 2002, √Člectricit√© de France (EDF) — the country's main electricity generation and distribution company — manages the country's 59 nuclear power plants. As of 2004, these plants produce 99.8% of both EDF's and France's power production (of which much is exported), making EDF the world leader in production of nuclear power by percentage. In the same year, 425.8 TWh out of the country's total production of 540.6 TWh was from nuclear power (78.8%).

France is the world's largest net exporter of electric power, exporting 18% of its total production (about 100 TWh) to Italy, the Netherlands, Britain, and Germany, and its electricity cost is among the lowest in Europe.

So why can't we do what the French do?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

The first question should be... what makes the cost of nuclear high in this country? The answer is not the fundamental construction or production of electricity. Its the time. The time it takes to jump through the enormous hurdles that are placed in the path of a nuclear power plant. And during all that time your investment money just sits there losing value, which in effect increases the cost of the plant and its product.

If a nuclear power plant could be built quickly (like it is in France) then it would be very cheap. This is a political problem, one that will have to be solved to actually take advantage of the potential for this energy source.

Mike said...

I think anonymous essentially has the answer. Rightly or wrongly, in the current political/environmental climate (no pun intended) new nuclear construction is essentially impossible in the US.

It's hard enough for current plant owners to keep the existing ones in operation.

Derek James said...

Well McCain is coming out publicly in favor of new nuclear plant construction. I'm heavily leaning toward Obama, but I have yet to hear a coherent and realistic energy plan from his camp.