The Washington Post published an article on July 31, 2007 titled Firm Applies To Expand Nuclear Plant In Maryland. In the article it did not mention that the filing took place on July 13, 2007 according to NRC MEETING AUG. 14 IN SOLOMONS, MD TO DISCUSS REVIEW PROCESS FOR CALVERT CLIFFS REACTOR APPLICATION.
I have not mentioned the filing here, though I have commented on a post on the topic by Ruth Sponsler over at We Support Lee.
This is a milestone event, representing the first actual construction and operating license filing for a new nuclear power plant in the United States in 30 years.
However, I sure wish that the leaders in the industry would figure out a way to explain to people that there are billions of reasons for wanting to build nuclear plants that have nothing to do with government subsidies and tax incentives. By issuing statements like the one below, the industry is setting itself up for massive opposition and eventual failure.
While many energy experts have criticized the size of federal incentives for nuclear power, Vanderheyden (Constellation Senior Vice President George Vanderheyden) said more loan guarantees would be needed. He said the current ceiling on guarantees would be enough to cover the cost of no more than two plants. The nuclear power industry has been lobbying Congress to sharply increase the size of the loan-guarantee program as part of this year’s energy bill.
I know that all other energy sources have received subsidies and that the nuclear industry has some real financial challenges ahead of it. Building mulit-billion dollar projects is inherently risky, even small construction related delays can add millions to the cost. When those projects are also handicapped by federal applications fees that are now set at $258 for every hour a bureaucrat spends reviewing or working on the license application, the hurdle gets even bigger. The size of that hurdle is even more obvious when one finds out that the partial license application submitted for the Calvert Cliffs expansion plant already includes more than 5,000 pages!
However, I would advise the industry leaders to work more on lowering the barriers than in getting government help to overcome the barriers. Instead of getting DOE assistance for the license application – assistance that DOE will not give to every applicant – why not ask the American people if they really think that it is appropriate for the applicant to pay the cost of government reviews without any control at all over how the government does the review or how hard the reviewers work?
Instead of focusing on enormous plants – the EPR proposed for the Calvert Cliffs site is a 1600 MWe plant, which would be the largest single unit plant ever built in the US – why not try building something smaller for the first project? It has been a long time since the US actually built a new nuclear plant on land from scratch, there are going to be some opportunities for mistakes in the process that will add to the cost and schedule. The more the ultimate project will cost, the greater the impact of this risk.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that Unistar has some fine ideas for “fleet” standardization and has put together a world class team with Areva, EDF, Bechtel, and Constellation. I hope they succeed; my wife and I breathe the air that will be cleaner when the plant comes on line and reduces the need for coal burning power plants in the entire region.
I just wish that the industry’s leaders would spend a little more time reminding people about the implications of the below graph instead of looking for government handouts that make their project even more vulnerable to the political process that is currently still controlled by people that have lots of reasons for not liking the competition that nuclear power provides to their favored energy sources.
This revealing graph is one of many that are available from the Nuclear Energy Institute’s newly redesigned and extremely useful web site. You can either click on the graph directly, or you can visit www.nei.org and search. There is also an intuitive link path that leads you through Resources and Stats, Nuclear Statistics, Costs – Fuel, Operations and Waste Disposal.
I hope that the NEI does not ask me to take down the graph.