Environmentalist groups do a lot of good work, so we’re happy to help them raise money, if being against nuclear energy helps them do that, but we would suggest that such groups freshen up their messages a bit. Or maybe take the financial hit and allow that maybe nuclear energy isn’t all that ghastly. But one or the other, please.
So here’s the deal.
The recommendation to the CPS Energy Board of Trustees comes after three years of detailed study of various energy options. It also aligns with the Strategic Energy Plan, CPS Energy’s four-objective roadmap for satisfying future energy requirements.
In CPS’s view, electricity demand will outstrip supply in its area of Texas (including San Antonio) soon enough, and CPS has already invested heavily in solar, wind and hydro power. So now, it’s time for more nuclear energy.
We like the idea (big surprise), but there could certainly be arguments to make against it:
“We are targeting no more than 5 percent bill increases every other year or roughly half that amount annually,” [Interim General Manager Steve Bartley] said. “We’re well aware of the current economic downtown, so we’re trying our best to make this project affordable for our customers. Even if we decide not to participate in STP expansion, we will still need customer bill increases to meet the demands of growth on our system.”
We suspect CPS could charge less without the nuclear units, so a viable argument may be that Texans can’t afford the rate hike. One could also say that CPS’ do-or-die approach to this project is unproductive energy brinksmanship. And that’s just off the top of our heads. We don’t necessarily believe any of it, but they’re valid points of contention.
So we now bring you Energia Mia, a group opposed to any such expansion. South Texas Project has been so- so- well, to be honest, it’s been a safe, reliable neighbor for 20 years. But you have to start somewhere:
CPS has said that 5-8% rate hikes would be needed every two years for the next ten years to pay for more nuclear power. Electric rates could increase nearly 50% as a result.
Ah, there’s our argument. That 50% figure at the end of 10 years seems to come out of thin air and even 25% seems high. But STP let itself in for this one.
"CPS wants to use old, outdated technology. Nuclear power is a thing of the past, a dinosaur, and we want San Antonio to instead look toward new technologies and today's energy solutions," said Mariana Ornelas, an active member of AGUA, Aquifer Guardians of Urban Areas.
By all means, throw mature (but we should note, continually developing) technology overboard. Newer and shinier objects await.
“Exposure to radiation can lead to cancer and genetic damage, and nuclear reactors create radioactive waste for which there is no safe storage solution," said community leader and former city council member Patti Radle.
Safe storage is kind of a non-starter – at least for now, used fuel doesn’t leave the plant – but it’s a debate worth having – the rest not so much.
"CPS will not have any incentive to pursue efficiency if nuclear power is the goal," said David Wells, with the Alamo Group of the Sierra Club. "Vast financial resources would go into nuclear power, and then instead of conserving, CPS would be trying to find buyers for the excess power generated."
What? They’d make money to share with ratepayers and stock holders? The horror of it. This one doesn’t make sense. CPS can presumably pursue nuclear energy and energy efficiency – and solar – and wind – and – you get the idea.
Update (August 12): see the comments. The Sierra Club’s David Wells writes that he wasn’t correctly quoted in the original article and provides his full quote, which belies our “doesn’t make sense” jibe. Our apologies to Mr. Wells if we only intensified his distress. Newspapers can be awful manglers of quotes.
Now, we should note that nuclear energy is pretty small beans in terms of advocacy intensity. Most arguments pro and con stay at least within hailing distance of the same fact set and the amount of out and out lying about it is vanishingly small. (See the current health care debate for arguments that are, um, counterfactual and prone to emotional overkill.) That said, we could use a hardier debate – STP is winning this one in a walk.
The South Texas Project. “STP has the lowest production cost reported by nuclear power plants nationwide, at 1.356 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2006. STPS’s combined operating, maintenance and fuel expenses were the lowest among plants that report those costs to federal regulators.” And that’s lower than just about any plant of any kind – running costs of nuclear units is what makes them appealing despite their admittedly breathtaking construction costs – hey, Energia Mia should use that one!
We’re only discussing CPS here, but presumably NRG and Austin will weigh in here too. We’ll poke around and see what we see.