"Nuclear is the least likely option to be built, due to the financial
The Charlotte Observer, Wed, Feb. 20, 2008
Nuclear foes ready for battle
The arguments against nuclear power used to be pretty simple, even if
not universally convincing: The plants are inherently dangerous and
doomed to fail.
But in an era of higher energy costs, nuclear foes hope they can make
a case that has broader public appeal, based on cost and need.
Opponents are preparing to challenge Progress Energy's proposal to
add a second reactor at the Shearon Harris plant in Wake County. They
will argue that there are cheaper options and that growing demand for
electricity can be met with conservation and other efforts.
The Raleigh utility, which submitted a 4,000-plus page application
with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Tuesday, disagrees, saying
it will need the new reactor to generate electricity in about a
The cost of a new power plant is not a theoretical debate but a
matter of pocketbook economics. The cost will be covered using
utility customers' monthly payments. And recent cost estimates for
power plants are staggering.
"We think that nuclear will sink under its own weight," said Molly
Diggins, North Carolina director of the Sierra Club in
Raleigh. "Nuclear is the least likely option to be built, due to the
Florida Power & Light, which is proposing using the same Westinghouse
AP1000 nuclear plant as Progress Energy, said recently that a single
reactor would cost $6 billion to $9 billion to finance and build.
That's three times more than industry estimates provided several
years ago. Soaring labor and materials costs have driven up costs.
Progress Energy, still negotiating with Westinghouse, won't publicly
disclose estimates for a new reactor at Shearon Harris until it signs
a contract in about two years. But the company will offer a glimpse
of its budget when it provides Florida regulators an estimate next
month for a proposed Westinghouse reactor in that state.
Progress Energy has said customers' electricity use is growing by
about 2 percent a year and will require the construction of a large
power plant to meet demand. The company is looking at expanding
conservation programs and buying power from independent generators of
solar power and other renewable energy sources to curb demand. But it
predicts an increasing appetite for electricity.
"Power plants are not discretionary," said Progress spokesman Rick
Kimble. "You're not reducing the number of children in schools.
You're not reducing the number of homes going up."