New Jersey & Nuclear. Perfect Together?

by Lev Josephson on December 29, 2017

in Nuclear Energy

You might have seen this ad, from PSEG or on their website, “NJ Needs Nuclear . com”

“It’s Cheaper to Keep Air Pollution-Free Nuclear Power than to Replace It,” the ad claims. And that is true. It’s also cheaper to drive a 10, 15, or 20 year old car than replace with a new one. Instead of a monthly car payment you have maintenance payments – new tires every 8 years or every 80,000 miles, whichever comes first, annual engine tune-ups. 

Here’s the flip side of the ad. 

“Dramatic Increases in Carbon Emissions … other fuels like coal for electricity would increase air pollution.” But what about solar and wind? 

“Increased Risk of Power Outages.” Actually, this is not verifiable. And a careful reading of these articles at Power Engineering, and CNBC suggest that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, requires nuclear plants to be shut down in the face of oncoming hurricanes. So maintaining nuclear also carries with it an increased risk of power outages. 

Back in 2005, when he was running for Governor, I asked Jon Corzine about offshore wind and nuclear power. He answered privately, “We are not building new nuclear. But we will keep the old plants running. It costs almost as much to maintain a nuclear plant when it is not producing power as it does when it is producing power.” 

But here’s the thing:

Replacing old nuclear with new nuclear is probably economically not viable. The Southern Company has been trying to expand the Vogtle nuclear complex with two new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, each 1,117 MW (wikipedia), for a total of 2,234 MW or 2.2 GW. Originally pitched and approved at $4 Billion, the plants are now expected to cost $25 Billion (Atlanta Journal Constitution). 

What about replacing old nuclear with new solar and new wind? New Solar at utility scale, costs about $1.00 per watt. New offshore wind is probably in the ballpark of $2.50 to $3.00 per watt. According to Lazard’s Levelized Costs of Energy, LCOE, for 2017, utility scale solar is $43 to $53 per MWH, utility scale wind is $30 to $60 per MWH, and existing nuclear is $112 to $183 per MWH. 

PSEG wants the New Jersey Legislature to support the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear plants. 

Lev Josephson, MBA, can be reached at “Lev _ Josephson @ Outlook . com” 


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