by Jim Warren
In a recent poll, many US scientists said construction of nuclear power plants would help with climate change. This reflects a major disconnect between scientific expertise and energy and economic realities, at least in most nations.
Unfortunately, the predictions by NC WARN and many others, beginning in 2004 when Dick Cheney announced the US nuclear “renaissance,” were entirely on target.
We warned that corporations trying to build nuclear plants would waste billions of public dollars and many years while limiting solar, wind and efficiency advances that could help us cut carbon emissions fairly quickly.
In those 11 years, only two new US nuclear projects have begun construction – in Georgia and South Carolina. Both are already billions over budget and years behind schedule. Construction continues only because customers were forced to pay for these reactors in advance through annual rate hikes legislation.
Duke Energy executives continue to hope they can try to build at the Lee nuclear site in SC, a plant now with a projected timeframe of 22 years. That hope is exactly related to Duke’s continuing efforts to stifle solar power and other avenues that could really help with climate change.
So even if there were sufficient US engineering and construction capacity and expertise to build nukes quickly enough to help slow climate change (and there isn’t), and even if Duke and others plan to replace coal with nuclear, instead of simply adding more generation and selling more juice (and they don’t), we must face the concrete reality that hoping to build nuclear plants is squandering the time and money that should be spent on genuine pollution-cutting energy plans.
(See the newly updated version of our annual Responsible Energy Future showing how North Carolina can move quickly away from coal ash and fracking gas.)