Saturday, March 08, 2008

Others pass Utah by while legislature pursues nuclear option

The idea of Utah becoming home to a nuclear power plant has gotten a lot of press in recent months. Representatives Aaron Tilton, R-Provo, and Mike Noel, R-Kanab have been working together both inside and outside the Capitol to make all the necessary arrangements to build Utah's first nuclear power plant somewhere near Green River.

Experts have testified on Utah's Capitol Hill a nuclear power plant in Utah would likely run up to $3 billion to build. The history of nuclear power plant development is rife with examples of cost overruns, and the ratepayers always end up picking up the tab. In addition, nuclear power plants take ten or more years to build making them questionable alternatives to other emerging technologies that can provide energy far sooner.

While Rep. Tilton and other Utah legislators fiddle with nuclear power Arizona, Nevada and countries like Spain are rapidly developing solar thermal technology. Using concave mirrors to focus the rays of the sun on a tower containing oil superheated to over 700°F these plants can retain enough heat to continue producing electricity for up to six hours after the sun sets. They are also far cheaper and easier to build than a nuclear power plant.

According to a recent New York Times article the Spanish company Abengoa and Pinnacle West recently committed to building a 280 megawatt solar thermal plant in Arizona. That is about as much electricity as any nuclear power plant Rep. Tilton's company probably has in mind would produce. Their 280 megawatt solar plant should be completed by 2011, long before licensing for the nuclear power plant of Tilton and Noel's dreams is over let alone built.

Another Spanish company, Acciona, just opened its 64 megawatt plant about 20 miles south of Las Vegas. Construction on that project began in early 2006 and it started generating electricity early this year. The cost for that project was originally projected to be between $225 and $250 million. Its construction and plans for similar projects elsewhere in the southwest are spawning new industries producing mirrors, specially designed pipes to carry the superheated oil, and other components.

The nuclear plant proposed for Utah lies just south of Utah's coal country. Recent reports indicate estimates of earth's coal reserves may be greatly exaggerated. Regardless, Utah's coal country could use an economic boost. Using some state and private lands to build a thermal solar plant makes more sense than using that land to build a giant, expensive nuclear power plant that generates waste Utah has, until now, tried to avoid storing.

Governor Huntsman and other lawmakers should work with other western states to turn our region into an alternative energy hotspot rather than wasting valuable time and resources pursuing the nuclear option. With a little leadership from the governor and Utah lawmakers I think we would find there are a few investors out there ready to offer Utah a cheaper, cleaner alternative than the one Representative Tilton's company is offering.


djysrv said...

Utah State Rep. Aaron Tilton is jolting some neural neutrons in Utah with a letter he sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) this week. In it Tilton, the nominal head of a shell corporation called Transition Power Development, sent a letter to the nuclear regulator to keep his place in line for review of a reactor license application should he ever submit one. According to a report in the Salt Lake City Tribune, Tilton says in the letter that Transition will apply for early site approval and a full reactor license by April 2010. There are plenty of challenges ahead and some of them are of Tilton's own making.

Full details at Idaho Samizdat

Anonymous said...

Craig has never had had a real job, so he obviously doesn’t understand the economics of the free market place or energy.

The stunning thing about nuclear power: tiny quantities of raw material can do so much.

Greens don’t want to hear it, but nuclear power makes the most environmental sense, too. Nuclear wastes pose no serious engineering problems. Uranium is such an energy-rich fuel that the actual volume of waste is tiny compared with that of other fuels, and is easily converted from its already-stable ceramic form as a fuel into an even more stable glass-like compound, and just as easily deposited in deep geological formations, themselves stable for tens of millions of years. And what has Green antinuclear activism achieved since the seventies? Not the reduction in demand for energy that it had hoped for but a massive increase in the use of coal, which burns less clean than uranium.
Many Greens think that they have a good grip on the likely trajectory of the planet’s climate over the next 100 years. If we keep burning fossil fuels at current rates, their climate models tell them, we’ll face a meltdown on a much larger scale than Chernobyl’s, beginning with the polar ice caps. Saving an extra 400 million tons of coal here and there—roughly the amount of carbon that the United States would have to stop burning to comply with the Kyoto Protocol today—would make quite a difference, we’re told.
But serious Greens must face reality. Short of some convulsion that drastically shrinks the economy, demand for electricity will go on rising. Total U.S. electricity consumption will increase another 20 to 30 percent, at least, over the next ten years. Neither Democrats nor Republicans, moreover, will let the grid go cold—not even if that means burning yet another 400 million more tons of coal. Not even if that means melting the ice caps and putting much of Bangladesh under water. No governor or president wants to be the next Gray Davis, recalled from office when the lights go out.
The power has to come from somewhere. Sun and wind will never come close to supplying it. Earnest though they are, the people who argue otherwise are the folks who brought us 400 million extra tons of coal a year. The one practical technology that could decisively shift U.S. carbon emissions in the near term would displace coal with uranium, since uranium burns emission-free. It’s time even for Greens to embrace the atom.
It must surely be clear by now, too, that the political costs of depending so heavily on oil from the Middle East are just too great. We need to find a way to stop funneling $25 billion a year (or so) of our energy dollars into churning cauldrons of hate and violence. By sharply curtailing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, we would greatly expand the range of feasible political and military options in dealing with the countries that breed the terrorists.
The best thing we can do to decrease the Middle East’s hold on us is to turn off the spigot ourselves. For economic, ecological, and geopolitical reasons, U.S. policymakers ought to promote electrification on the demand side, and nuclear fuel on the supply side, wherever they reasonably can.

Anonymous said...

Craig has never had a real job?

Since it is obvious you don't know Craig at all there is no reason to read the rest of your comment.

Republican legislators just love to talk crap, make money, and masturbate.