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Grist’s Anti-Nuclear Campaign Distorts Reality (Part 2 of 3)

Continuing on with our analysis of Grist’s anti-nuclear campaign, the following is what we think about Mr. Jungjohann’s third and fourth pieces.

Grist’s Part Three - States fight back against nuclear power, even as the feds remain in its thrall

In his third piece, Mr. Jungjohann claims, with little evidence, that states are turning against nuclear. Of the five states he mentions, only one of them is actually fighting against nuclear and that’s Vermont, which has been fighting for years.

In New York, a new, ambitious governor who wants to shut down Indian Point may not speak for the majority. As an example, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani supports nuclear and the folks up in Oswego County have been working hard for a long time to bring a new reactor to the state.

In California, just because activists are going after the state’s two nuclear plants doesn’t mean the state is fighting nuclear.

And in Maryland and Texas, the decision to suspend the process for new plants was made by the sponsoring companies for competitive and business reasons. The state governments were not involved.

Based on our count (pdf), Mr. Jungjohann may be interested to know that there are 19 states with legislation and regulations that encourage and support the expansion of nuclear electricity to power their economies.

Further, here’s what New Jersey (not in our count of 19) said in its draft energy plan (pdf) released last week:

While the prospect of new nuclear generation to replace Oyster Creek is not achievable by the end of the decade, New Jersey should remain committed to the objective assessment of how nuclear power fits into the diversified resource mix to meet economic, reliability and environmental goals [p. 5]. … The State cannot achieve its 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goal without a significant portion of the energy supply coming from nuclear technology [p. 79].

‘Nuff said about the states.

Grist’s Part Four - Is pro-nuke enthusiasm in the U.S. waning?

Mr. Jungjohann’s fourth and final piece is conjecture and speculation barren of factual or evidentiary support. He asks and answers:

Can we then look forward to a new renaissance of nuclear power in the United States, as its supporters like to claim? Unlikely, for the nuclear revival is on financially shaky ground. Exploding costs and cheap competition from natural gas are grave problems for the industry. The Wall Street banks see the new construction plans as too expensive and too risky. Even with billions in federal guarantees, American businesses can't afford the price of nuclear power. Only a handful of new nuclear projects have moved ahead in recent years, primarily at existing nuclear plant sites in the southeastern United States.

One question, if businesses can’t afford nuclear, how does he explain “the new nuclear projects [that] have moved ahead”?

As we’ve said for a number of years now (pdf), building new nuclear plants would unfold slowly and that “we expect four to eight new reactors on-line in the 2016-2020 timeframe.” We also said that “yes, the price of gas is low, but we’ve seen four major periods of volatility in gas prices since 2000. At no time during that period did we have any concern about gas supply or resource base. So at least in the past, gas price volatility has not been correlated to resource base.” Here’s a slide from page 19 in our Wall Street presentation earlier this year looking at the long-term fundamentals for nuclear in the electricity market:

image

Utilities take a long-term view on nuclear since building and operating plants will provide electricity for 40 to 60 years. Looking at the data, as described in pages 9 and 10, the long-term fundamentals have not really changed. The US will continue to consume more and more electricity, half of all power plants are more than 30 years old and will eventually need to be replaced, and gas prices have historically shown volatility regardless of how much is known to be in the ground. Sounds like there’s still a big niche that nuclear can fill.

Here’s Mr. Jungjohann’s last line in his series:

In the best case, nuclear will be an unnecessary delay for a transition toward a renewable energy-based economy.

I guess we’ll see. Many people in the US and across the world, however, believe Germany’s making a mistake. Below are a number of affirmations of nuclear power from the many countries that have decided on a course starkly different than the German one.

Malcom Grimston, Chatham House research fellow and advisor to the UK government on nuclear policy said this about the shutdown:

To have a major European economy inevitably saddling itself with more greenhouse gas emissions - the German Greens are openly talking about building more gas-powered plants and supporting the new coal-fired plants that are being brought online - is, I think, going to be a tragedy for the environment, and I don't think it's going to be good for the German economy.

The Washington Post’s editorial board said this:

Panicked overreaction isn’t the right response to the partial meltdowns in Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex. Instead, countries aiming to provide their citizens with reliable, low-carbon electricity should ask how to minimize inevitable, if small, risks — making their nuclear facilities safer, more reliable and more efficient.

Daniel Poneman, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy reaffirmed the American commitment to nuclear. 

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) called Germany’s decision a “mistake.”

Francois Fillon, Prime Minister of France said this:

“there’s no way” for the European Union to meet its emission-cutting targets without at least some nuclear power.

Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland said this

If nuclear power isn’t good enough for the Germans and others, it raises the question of what type of energy is good enough … With all due respect, windmills will not replace the nuclear power plants that exist in Germany. And despite Nord Stream, there won’t be enough gas to build enough [gas-fired] power plants to replace nuclear ones.

Darja Radic, Slovenia’s Economy Minister, said they won’t “give up its nuclear plans because of the accident.”

And the global sustainable electricity partnership of utilities from 12 countries just made this statement:

Top executives of many of the world's largest electricity companies today offered a collective statement on nuclear energy, saying its limitation threatens to raise the cost of electricity significantly, reduce the world's ability to lessen greenhouse gas emissions and undermine the reliability of power supplies.

Perhaps maybe Mr. Jungjohann and other German folks should think a little bit harder about a decision that could seriously affect their economy and environment. Sweden voted in 1980 to phase out the nation’s 12 reactors by 2010; ten of them still operate today. Time will tell.

In the meantime, look out for our last response to Grist’s anti-nuclear campaign later this week. It will delve into Paul Gipe’s post that claims “nuclear power is expensive and uninsurable.” 

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