New Electrical Generation From Wind & Solar Is 21 Times Greater Than That Expected from Watts Bar 2
(prepared by the SUN DAY Campaign, October 2016)
[Editor’s Note: GreenWorld is pleased to publish this guest post by Ken Bossong, of the SUN DAY Campaign. Ken puts the startup of the first U.S. nuclear reactor in 20 years in perspective with the growth of renewable energy sources. To say that renewables are growing faster than nuclear is an understatement.
Yet the nuclear industry is likely to trumpet Watts Bar 2 coming online as a big triumph, and even turn it into a big PR offensive about the miracles nuclear power can weave for fighting climate change. That is, once the reactor gets past the series of equipment failures that has repeatedly delayed the startup since June.
Ken’s piece puts the whole nuclear vs. renewables debate in clear perspective. The Tennessee Valley Authority has spent 9 years and more than $4 billion to bring a 43-year old construction project to completion, when TVA could have used that time and money more productively on developing renewables and energy efficiency.]
As it nears commercial operation, Watts Bar 2, the first “new” nuclear power plant in the United States in more than a generation, is proof that nuclear power has lost the race with safer, cleaner, and more economical renewable energy sources – particularly solar and wind.
The Summer nuclear project, May 2014. Still a long ways–and a lot more rate increases–to go.
The nuclear “renaissance” began fizzling about three minutes after it was declared, once utility financial people took over from the nuclear boosters and did a real examination of reactor construction cost estimates, declining electrical demand, falling prices for natural gas, and rapid growth of renewables.
But five new reactors, aided by unique circumstances, do remain under construction in the U.S.: two at Southern Company’s Georgia Power Vogtle site in Georgia, two at SCANA’s Summer site in South Carolina, and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar-2 reactor in Tennessee. Both Vogtle and Summer are aided by their control of their state’s Public Service Commission, which kindly allows the utilities to use ratepayers as their banks; both utilities are collecting money from ratepayers as construction goes on, enabling them to borrow less and repay what they do borrow faster. And the Vogtle project also has received $6.5 Billion in low-interest taxpayer loans from the Federal Financing Bank, with another $1.8 Billion to some of its partners still expected. TVA is in a class of its own–a federal government agency with its own budget and authority and Congressional backers who will readily support just about anything it wants to do–as long as it’s not spending too much money on renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. Continue reading