Green groups say having fewer toaster ovens will solve energy demand issues
Progress Energy said this week it is planning a new nuclear power plant in North Carolina. Environmental groups responded immediately saying they would oppose the new plant.
Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN) announced that it will file a combined operating license (COL) application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) this week for two possible new reactors at the existing Harris Nuclear Plant site near New Hill, N.C. Note that Progress will take advantage of the cost savings associated with using the infrastructure at an existing site and not going with a greenfield project.
Company CEO Bill Johnson said about the decision, "As our region and its demand for electricity grows, energy conservation and efficiency programs and the development of renewable energy sources are essential, but we must also evaluate investments in advanced nuclear reactors as a way to continue to provide reliable, environmentally sound power to meet our region's growing demands for electricity."
He emphasized, "State of the art nuclear power, which does not generate greenhouse gases, can help us meet those needs while at the same time protecting the environment."
Progress Energy chose the Harris site in 2006, based on availabe transmission lines, proximity to cooling water, and to Progress Energy Carolinas' largest area of customer concentration. If the decision is made to move forward with building the two units, they would not be online until 2018. Progress said it will use a Westinghouse AP1000 for the reactor units at the site. In its press release Progress went into detail why it is using this reactor.
"The AP1000 is an advanced 1,100-megawatt nuclear power plant that uses passive safety system designs and engineering simplicity to enhance plant reliability and reduce construction costs. The AP1000 has 87 percent less cable, 83 percent less pipe, 50 percent fewer valves and 35 percent fewer pumps than the generation of reactors in operation today."
The AP1000 is one of two certified nuclear reactor designs approved by the NRC. The other is the GE-Hitachi BWR design that is slated to be used in two new units at NRG's South Texas site.
Environmental groups say reactor out efficiency in
The Charlotte News & Observer reported that environmental groups say the two new reactors (2,000 MWe) are not needed and that energy efficiency and reduced use of electricity will eliminate the need for new generation capacity. The anti-nuclear activist mantra continues to use the problems of the 50s & 60s as a theme for criticisms in the current era. Here's what one high profile group had to say.
"We think that nuclear will sink under its own weight," said Molly Diggins, North Carolina director of the Sierra Club in Raleigh. "Nuclear is the least likely option to be built, due to the financial risk."
"Power plants are not discretionary," responded Progress spokesman Rick Kimble. "You're not reducing the number of children in schools. You're not reducing the number of homes going up."
It is worth noting that North Carolina is a high tech center for computers and pharmaceuticals. Also, Business Week reported last July that Google plans to build a huge, energy intensive server farm in North Carolina worth $600 million. Although Duke Energy may be the utility that supplies the facility with electricity, that utility has also proposed to build new nuclear power generation capacity.
There is a strong element among nuclear critics of linking changes in lifestyle to energy efficiency. It seems that green groups think that if we have fewer high definition TVs and more efficient toaster ovens that the need for nuclear power plants will go away. Idealists in green groups appear to think that their goals can be achieved by giving up devices that use electricity and that solar and wind will meet base load demand for power.
Retired Duke University economic professor John Blackburn, who testifies as an expert witness in utility cases for environmental groups, said ,"The conservation effort potential is so large that getting just a part of it will eliminate the demand growth of electricity. If we do all the efficiency stuff and then start bringing on renewable resources, we'll see a decline in the demand for existing power plants."
CEO Johnson told the newspaper that Blackburn is mistaken. "The overall demand for electricity is not going to decrease in our fast-growing part of the country and, as a utility, we have an obligation to meet that growing demand," added Johnson. "Using nuclear power, we can help secure our energy future with a fuel that does not contribute to global warming."
Johnson also said that energy efficiency is important to the utility. He told the newspaper the firm has a goal of displacing 2,000 megawatts of power generation through demand side management and energy-efficiency programs. Those 2,000 MW are equal to four 500 MW coal-fired power plants and then there is also the matter of the greenhouse gases they would have produced.
A debate, a dilemma, and the future
The debate over the future of nuclear energy in North Carolina is continuing. If environmental groups believe that an agenda that diminishes the use of electricity, and related changes in quality of life, is going to sell to the public, they are mistaken. Energy efficiency is a good idea, but not at the expense of moving backwards with technology.
Here's one other thought. Whatever energy efficiency doesn't cut out demand for new power plants, the fuel source for power comparable to nuclear is coal. So green groups face a dilemma. They can battle against nuclear power plants and have more green house gases as a result. That's called a "counter-intuitive" result. Nobody wins. Surely North Carolina and the planet deserve better.
Readers are also referred to Jevon's paradox for further explanation of this issue. It has relevance for energy efficiency and energy use issues. Hat tip to Sovietologist for the idea.