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On Which Costs More: A Load of Laundry or a Cup of Coffee?

Hi Veronique, Is there a bug in the NYC data in the table? It shows energy costs for 'non-Energy star' as *cheaper* than 'Energy Star' and just 1¢ more costly per load than 'most efficient'.


March 21, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy Making an Ultimate Comeback?

Duke Energy today announced it will permanently close its Crystal River Nuclear Plant.


February 8, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy Making an Ultimate Comeback?

Past is precedent. It's unfair to suggest that long-term price risk for natural gas is a deal breaker, without acknowledging nuclear's parlous track record for containing all manner of costs, from licensing, to construction to decommissioning -- the last of which is still largely unkown and seems far more likely to be higher than estimated, rather than lower. Cost overruns averaged 207% for plants built built in the decade to 1977, accordig to the CBO, from a table cited in the Hidden Costs of Electricity (2012), and exceprted below:

6.1 Cost and Planning Risks of Nuclear Plants

The cost overruns that caused the flight from nuclear in the U.S. were dramatic: many units ended up taking years longer to build than expected and costing three times the original estimates or more. Table 12 presents data from the Congressional Budget Office showing the average cost overruns at projects commenced between 1966 and 1977.

In recent years, several new nuclear projects have been proposed in the U.S. The industry is focused on controlling costs and reducing construction periods with standardized reactor designs and streamlined permitting. However, the experience to date is not promising.

  • Progress Energy’s two-reactor project in Florida was originally projected to be online by 2016 at a cost of $17 billion. The latest estimate is an online date of 2024 and a cost of $22.5 billion, or roughly $10,000 per kW (Progress Energy 2010).
  • In late 2010, Constellation Energy scrapped plans for a new reactor at Calvert Cliffs after finding the terms of a Government loan guarantee unacceptable (Economist 2010).
  • The effort to develop two new reactors at the South Texas plant was scrapped in April 2011. The project being developed by NRG and Toshiba, and the disaster at Fukushima was cited as the key reason for the abandoning the project. However, cost escalation had already put the project in a precarious position: cost estimates had risen to $18 billion, or $6,700 per kW, and another partner, CPS Energy, had already reduced its share from 50% to 7.6%. NRG has written off its $331 million investment in the project (Souder 2011).
  • Georgia Power’s original (2006) cost estimate for the 2-unit expansion at the Vogtle plant was $14 billion, or roughly $6,400 per kW. The company has not officially revised this estimate since 2006. (Georgia Power experienced cost overruns of approximately 300% on a real-cost basis for the original Vogtle units.)

As with coal projects, utilities can often begin charging ratepayers for a new nuclear plant before it is in service, and in Florida and Georgia, laws have been passed ensuring that utilities can do this. This shifts the risk of project delays or cancellation from utilities to consumers. Customers are already paying for the two new units proposed in Georgia and the four proposed in Florida. One Florida newspaper estimated that ratepayers would pay over $750 million in 2011 alone (Sun Sentinel 2011), despite the fact that Florida Power and Light has said it will decide in 2014 whether or not to build two of the units. The ratepayer backlash has been significant in these states: a bill to overturn the cost recovery law was introduced in the Florida Senate in February 2012, and although the bill failed, consumer groups are planning to challenge the costs at the State Supreme Court.

February 8, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy Making an Ultimate Comeback?

This story feels like it landed here straight from 2006, heyday of the idea that an affordable nuclear renaissance was nigh, given high-cost natural gas, and predictions that power demand was on track to grow by a third in the next few decades. 

Now none of that is true:  the reactors under construction are seeing huge costs overruns; gas is cheapr; and power is actaully falling. If we're after a lower carbon fleet, better to put the tens of bilions new nukes would cost towards efficiency programs, and you'll get a far greater economic multiplier, both near-term and over the long-run.

In the WSJ, Rebecca Smith has covered this issue repeatedly. Two days ago, in fact, she pointed out that the sum of these forces suggest that six, or eight, reactors may be shut down for financial reasons,  because it may cheaper to replace their capacity with natural tgas, rather than cover  recommissioning, refuelling and other costs.

March 15, 2012, "Cheap Natural Gas Unplugs U.S. Nuclear-Power Revival"

January 29, 2013, "Can Gas Undo Nuclear Power?"

February 1, 2013    View Comment