Dave Erickson blogs at Re/Action on Climate Protection. Dave makes it clear in his blog description that he is speaking for himself in this forum and is not representing the Climate Protection Campaign.
Recently, he has posted several comments about energy economics that make it pretty clear that he likes wind, tolerates coal, and believes that nuclear power is too expensive to even consider. He recently posted a comment that pulled a quote out of a New York Times article by Matthew Wald and Heather Timmons that was republished by the International Herald Tribune at New dawn for nuclear power is distant.
The quote was from Peter Bradford, who served on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1977 through 1982. There is an interesting story about his actions during TMI in which he and two other commissioners who were in Bethesda, MD tried to convince the commissioners on site in Harrisburg that they should order a precautionary evacuation.
Mr. Bradford later served as the head of public utility commissions in both New York and Maine. As the head of Maine’s Public Utility Commission in December, 1984 he was part of the decision to order three Maine utility companies to sell their ten percent stakes in the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. (Ordered sales often do not result in the most advantageous negotiating positions.)
He also serves on the board of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Bradford’s comment about nuclear power was pretty negative; his publicly expressed views about nuclear power have not changed much in the 27 years since TMI:
“It’s hard to imagine people putting a $5 billion bet on new reactors, as matters stand now, with uncertainty around climate change policy and impossibility of getting financing for them in private markets.”
I disagree with the quote on several levels. First of all, it gives a very false impression that there will be a need to invest $5 Billion before figuring out if new reactors can compete in the market. Secondly, as reported in many posts on this blog, there are plenty of experienced, tough minded investors that are taking a much more favorable view about nuclear power than is Mr. Bradford.
Toshiba is a success in a variety of very competitive markets like laptop computers and flash memory chips. They think they have made a wise investment by buying Westinghouse for more than $5 Billion – so I guess the reality is that someone has already made a $5 Billion dollar bet on the revival of the nuclear power industry.
Mike Wallace of Constellation Energy and Unistar, who has announced a plan to create an enterprise that will produce a “fleet” of nuclear power plants in the US market, is obviously more disposed to nuclear investments than Mr. Bradford.
Duke Power, Southern Company, Tennessee Valley Authority, Progress Energy, Dominion Power, FP&L, and Entergy are all putting a lot of time and effort into the early stages of planning for new reactors. The orders have not yet been made, but they will be starting next year. This is public knowledge, yet none of them have seen any problems with their stock price performance. There is a long process required to be ready to make a large – probably $2 billion dollar investment.
I have real difficulty understanding how seemingly intelligent, well educated people like Dave Erickson can ignore the choices that are being made in the market today and choose to believe a man that has been fighting nuclear energy developments for almost three decades. Of course, Mr. Bradford is going to be skeptical, but he is a man with an established opinion that was probably formed when he felt confused about what was happening at TMI. As we all know, some people will never, ever change their mind once they have developed an opinion.
I know because I happen to be just as stubborn. I learned through hands on experience and study that nuclear fission is pretty simple to control, produces no pollution, and can be extremely reliable. I later learned that much of the information that I had read about it being expensive was based on a particular combination of technology, market conditions, general economic conditions, and active opposition carefully focused on increasing costs wherever possible.
Nuclear technology in the form of fission power plants is already a benefit to mankind, and it looks like it is going to be a very, very lucrative investment that will change the world’s economy and ecology in ways that get me so excited I often cannot sleep.
Bottom line – you pick who you want to believe.
PS – Credit David Bradish who posted at Nuclear versus Wind Part 1 for initiating this early morning rant. 🙂