We’ve written numerous times about the Orwellian “Thomas Jefferson Institute.” For more For more on that far-right-wing, fossil-fuel-funded, climate-science-denying (hence: completely bonkers) organization, see here:
The Thomas Jefferson Institute is a libertarian/right-wing think tank committed to “free markets, limited government and individual responsibility.” It is funded heavily by the Roe Foundation, a South Carolina-based which provides “financial support to free-market policy groups across the country” and which gives out its annual Roe Award to the likes of Grover Norquist and to others from right-wing groups like the Independence Institute (proud global warming deniers), the Reason Foundation (for years, global warming deniers who received funding from ExxonMobil), and the big-time global warming deniers at the Heartland Institute. Sensing a pattern here?
These tools are also funded by the State Policy Network, the Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State
Politics and Government “with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.” Anyway, the bottom line is that these folks have absolutely ZERO credibility, nor does any “analysis” they put out on any subject, certainly not on energy or environmental matters, given their broad and deep ties to far-right-wing and fossil fuel interests.
All of which brings us to their latest hack job, a “study” called Virginia Can Lead the Nation’s Nuclear Renaissance that is wrong on just about every level. As Peter Galuszka explains at Bacon’s Rebellion:
…I note that the authors of this industry-happy report are members of an “authority” made up only of nuclear industry proponents and was created by disgraced former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, who had a penchant for creating one-sided commissions.
A few points:
(1) “No radiation has ever leaked in the U.S. Yes, it did at Three Mile Island, apparently in a small amount, but the monitors did not report emissions accurately.
(2) Radiation sure as hell leaked at Chernobyl. The plume traveled all the way to Sweden. At Fukushima, radiation was enough to kill someone in a few hours…
(3) Talk about minimizing North Anna! Vepco, Dominion’s predecessor, was fined for lying about putting he power plant on a fault line. The 2011 earthquake shook the reactor far past its design specs. It shut down for three months and the NRC studied it for national Repairs. Jim Bacon and the report he quotes minimize the incident. It was very serious.
(4) True nukes don’t emit the CO2 that fossil fuel plants do. But how about the cost of a third nuke at North Anna? Is $15 billion too low? Dominion won’t discuss. Don’t get started about subsidies.
As usual, Galuszka nails it. The guy is sharp, no doubt about it.
Meanwhile, the Thomas Jefferson Institute dudes are also utterly, wildly wrong that “nuclear power generated in Virginia was the least expensive of any power generation source.” To the contrary, as a recent analysis by Lazard, one of the world’s leading financial advisory and asset management firms, found, the capital cost of “current U.S. new nuclear construction” amounts to a whopping $7,591 per kilowatt (kw), or 4-5 times higher than onshore wind power’s $1,400-$1,800 per kw, about 5 times higher than utility-scale solar power’s $1,500 per kw cost, and about 6 times higher than a gas combined cycle plant’s $1,318/kw cost. And that’s not even looking at energy efficiency, which Lazard estimates at $0-$50/megawatthour (Mwh), compared to nuclear’s $124/Mwh (note: onshore wind costs $37-$81/Mwh; utility-scale solar $60-$86/Mwh; gas combined cycle $61-$87/Mwh).
In short, nuclear is not even close to being competitive with energy efficiency, utility-scale solar, onshore wind or natural gas-fired power. And, unlike solar and wind, whose costs keep falling, nuclear’s costs keep rising (“Between 2002 and 2008, for example, cost estimates for new nuclear plant construction rose from between $2 billion and $4 billion per unit to $9 billion per unit”). In turn, that’s why “nuclear power has failed to attract private-sector financing-so the industry has looked to government for subsidies, including loan guarantees, tax credits, and other forms of public support.” How much taxpayer-funded corporate welfare, aka “subsidies,” are we talking about? According to the Union of Concerned Scientists: “Using conservative capital cost estimates ($7,085/kW including financing) and assuming eight new reactors are built over the next 15 years, we estimate that the nuclear industry could obtain new subsidies worth in excess of $40 billion, or $5 billion per reactor, if a broad range of industry handouts are included in pending climate and energy legislation.”
Or take a recent example, Vogtle Reactors #3 and #4 in Georgia. As nonpartisan federal budget watchdog organization Taxpayers for Common Sense writes:
In August 2008, it was originally estimated that Plant Vogtle reactors 3&4 would cost $14.3 billion and begin commercial operations in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Today, the estimate of the project’s cost has reached $15.5 billion and the reactors are projected to come online in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Pending lawsuits between project partners and the construction contractors could push the project’s final costs even higher to $16.5 billion.
DOE conditionally offered Southern Co. and its partners $8.33 billion in federal loan guarantees in February 2010 – $3.46 billion to Georgia Power Company, $3.06 billion to Oglethorpe Power Corporation, and $1.81 billion to the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia. Since then, the Department of Energy has extended its $8.33 billion loan guarantee offer multiple times. The most recent deal between DOE and project partners was reached in January 2014, when the offer was extended until February 28, 2014.
On and on it goes, but the bottom line is simple, and one that anyone who supports a “free market” should agree with: nuclear power is not even CLOSE to being economical without massive, taxpayer-funded government subsidies. It’s also not even close to being competitive with other, currently existing alternatives such as onshore wind, utility-scale solar, energy efficiency, or natural-gas-fired power plants. So why on earth should we listen to the Koch-funded tools at the “Thomas Jefferson Institute” and push for a lot more nuclear power plants in Virginia? Short answer: we absolutely should not, unless we really enjoy wasting billions of dollars on taxpayer-funded corporate welfare and boondoggles.