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Nuclear energy for Colorado? The cost is one very big obstacle

Post Independent, Allen Best 6 Aug 22, A nuclear reactor might be a nice addition to the economy of Craig, the community in northwestern Colorado. But can Colorado afford nuclear power?

……………….Sen. Bob Rankin in the last legislative session tried to get fellow legislators to appropriate $500,000 (amended to $250,000) to study the potential for nuclear.

…………Conspicuously absent was support from the administration of Gov. Jared Polis. The bill failed 3-2 on a party-line vote.

Nuclear has a nagging problem, though. It’s expensive. Advocates rarely mention this. Costs of Georgia’s Plant Vogtle, the only U.S. nuclear power plant under construction, have ballooned from $14 billion to now $30 billion-plus. In South Carolina, investors pulled the plug on a nuclear power plant after spending $9 billion. It has become among the very costliest of energy sources, only slightly less than rooftop solar, according to Lazard, the financial analyst.

Modular nuclear reactors have been promoted as a way to shave costs. Specific projects have been conceived in both Idaho and Wyoming. Bill Gates is an investor in the latter. Maybe they will overcome this cost problem. We won’t really know for another 10, maybe 15 years.

State Sen. Chris Hansen remains skeptical. He has expertise unsurpassed among legislators. He set out to become a nuclear engineer after first laying eyes on a reactor when a high school junior from the farm country of Kansas. He got his degree but had already turned his attention to economics. He went on to earn degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, from Oxford, a Ph.D. in resource economics.

Nuclear, he told a county commissioner from Sterling in 2019, when I first heard him answer this question, simply does not compete in cost. Last week, when we talked, he offered more detail.

“I think those technologies will have to prove themselves,” he said of modular nuclear reactors. “Right now, in the best-case scenario it looks like they will deliver electricity at $60 to $70 per megawatt-hour. Wind and solar are coming in at less than $20.”

……….. Hansen suggests that reliability [of rennewables] may more economically be provided by less expensive alternatives. For example, he has pushed transmission and passed legislation to create organized markets that will allow electricity to be moved across broader geographic areas in response to consumer demands. Colorado is currently an island with limited bridges to other areas…………

August 5, 2022 - Posted by | business and costs, USA

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