David Frum says ‘Conservatives Heart Nuke Power.’
I always thought it was conservatives who accused progressives of being driven by their heart and not their brain. A painfully uninformed David Frum wades into the debate over nuclear power with a post headlined, “Conservatives Heart Nuke Power“:
First Brad Plumer in the New Republic, then Matt Yglesias on his site have marveled at the supposedly strange enthusiasm of conservatives for nuclear power. What’s strange about it? It’s pure cold economic rationality. If you wish to move away from carbon-emitting electricity sources, nuclear is far and away the cheapest choice. If we’re not going to rely more on nuclear power, then the reduction in carbon emissions will have to imply some dramatic reductions in standards of living.
Former Presidential speechwriter Frum is best known for helping to originating the “axis of evil” metaphor (his first phrase, “axis of hatred,” was changed to “axis of evil” by Michael Gerson, Bush’s chief speechwriter, who wanted to use more “theological language,” as Frum explains in his book on page 238). He apparently hails from the Bizarro World, whose Code states “Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness!”
New nuclear power plants are currently far and away the most expensive form of carbon free power you can (try to) buy — assuming you could find a nuclear vendor today that was actually willing to guarantee a price for their product in a Public Utility Commission hearing, which you can’t.
Indeed, the French government-owned nuclear giant, Areva threatened work stoppage in late summer at the Finnish nuke they were building over who would pay for cost overruns. Areva had made clear in May it wasn’t going to keep swallowing the price escalation risk — see “Areva has acknowledged that the cost of a new reactor today would be as much as 6 billion euros, or $8 billion, double the price offered to the Finns.”
The most detailed independent cost estimate of nuclear power published this year — here on Climate Progress by a leading expert in power plant costs, Craig A. Severance (see “Exclusive analysis, Part 1: The staggering cost of new nuclear power“) — puts the generation costs for power from new nuclear plants at from 25 to 30 cents per kilowatt-hour — triple current U.S. electricity rates!
And that was just one week after Time magazine noted that nuclear plants’ capital costs are “out of control,” concluding:
Most efficiency improvements have been priced at 1 to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, while new nuclear energy is on track to cost 15 to 20 cents per kilowatt-hour. And no nuclear plant has ever been completed on budget.
The price of power plants has soared here and abroad this year.
Progress Energy in Florida had said in 2008 that the twin 1,100-megawatt plants it intends to build would cost $14 billion, which “triples estimates the utility offered little more than a year ago.” And that didn’t even count the 200-mile $3 billion transmission system utility needs, which brings the price up to a staggering $7,700 a kilowatt. Under Florida law, to pay for these nuclear power plants, Progress Energy can raise the rates of its customers a $100 a year for years and years and years before they even get one kilowatt-hour from these plants.
Ratepayers in the region are being asked to swallow another rate increase (and a 20-month delay) on top of the 25 percent increase they saw in January (see “What do you get when you buy a nuke?“).
Ya gotta “heart” that. Or perhaps the better pop-culture reference would be to say, “Excellent!”
It isn’t just this country — see “Turkey’s only bidder for first nuclear plant offers a price of 21 cents per kilowatt-hour.“
Indeed, our nuclear-friendly neighbor up north just saw the mother of all nuclear bids: “Nuclear Bombshell: $26 Billion cost — $10,800 per kilowatt! — killed Ontario nuclear bid“. And that bid from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. was the only “compliant” bid received:
The bid from France’s Areva NP also blew past expectations, sources said. Areva’s bid came in at $23.6 billion, with two 1,600-megawatt reactors costing $7.8 billion and the rest of the plant costing $15.8 billion. It works out to $7,375 per kilowatt,
Areva “was deemed non-compliant, however, likely because Areva wouldn’t guarantee the price.”
That’s right, Areva bid a whopping $23.6, but wouldn’t even guarantee that price.
Ya gotta “heart” that.
Right now, efficiency, recycled energy, wind, biomass, geothermal, new hydro (!), concentrated solar thermal, and even PV [roughly in that order] can deliver low-carbon power cheaper than whatever price you can get guaranteed by a nuclear vendor or utility in this country (see “An introduction to the core climate solutions“). And that doesn’t even count low-cost fuel switching from coal to natural gas in existing plants (see “Game changer, Part 2: Why unconventional natural gas makes the 2020 Waxman-Markey target so damn easy and cheap to meet“).
Progressives “brain” clean energy!