Nuclear Power Key to Low-Carbon Plans
Nuclear Power Key to Low-Carbon Plans (397)
(NewsUSA) - As climate and energy bills work their way through Congress, it's clear that the Obama administration wants to assert America's energy independence. No single electricity-generating technology can meet America's future energy needs by itself. But nuclear energy must play a significant role in any viable plan to meet the nation's energy needs and reduce carbon emissions.
Nuclear energy can compete from a cost standpoint with other sources of electricity. While coal and natural gas plants may be less expensive to build -- new nuclear plants are estimated to cost $6 billion to $8 billion -- nuclear energy produces electricity using less fuel and with lower operating costs.
There's also the issue of life span, which varies depending on the technology and makes a difference in evaluating up-front construction costs: Nuclear plants can operate for 60 and possibly 80 years. Wind turbines have an average lifespan of 20 to 30 years, according to Minneapolis-based National Wind, a developer of large-scale wind farms.
Aggressive carbon caps under consideration in Washington will make nuclear energy more attractive. Nuclear power plants do not generate carbon emissions. At the same time, nuclear plants require less acreage and provide more reliable electricity than wind, solar and biomass generators.
A biomass fuel cultivation area would have to be larger than Delaware to replace a nuclear power plant. To produce the same amount of electricity as a 2-unit nuclear power plant, a wind farm would need to be 10 times larger than Washington, D.C.
Consider this: The much-publicized Texas wind farm project that T. Boone Pickens recently postponed was estimated to cost $10 billion and require up to 200,000 acres. This cost didn't include the estimated $3 billion to $6 billion in additional transmission necessary to distribute the energy from its source.
Space constraints and reliability issues prevent renewable sources of electricity from becoming primary power sources. While renewable sources of electricity should pay important roles in a diverse energy profile, an emission-free future will require nuclear power. This position has been embraced by a bipartisan majority in the U.S. Congress and by various environmental groups. Tony Kreindler, media director of the Environmental Defense Fund, put it succinctly when he recently said, "Given the scope of the climate problem and the emissions problem, we need to look at all the energy options we have, and nuclear is one of them."
For more information, visit www.nei.org.