TXU hopes to build nuclear reactors instead of coal-fired power plants
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
April 10, 2007




Texas energy company TXU will abandon plans to build coal-fired power planets and will instead focus on building the largest nuclear power plants in the United States according to an article from The Wall Street Journal. Despite reduced emissions of greenhouse gases, the decision will likely prove controversial due to the high cost of nuclear energy. Without substantial subsidies nuclear energy is rarely cost-competitive with coal or renewable power sources.

The Wall Street Journal reports that NRG Energy Inc., Exelon Corp. and Amarillo Power are also planning to build power plants in Texas raising the prospect that the state could have more nuclear reactors than any other within a decade.

The article notes that due to power deregulation in the state, the additional cost of any construction overruns would be borne by shareholders and the federal government, not power customers. This point is important given that nuclear reactors often cost far more than expected according to a study published last week by researchers from Georgetown University, Stanford University and UC Berkeley.

The study, published in the April 1 issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology, warned that nuclear power may not be financially attractive even with generous government subsidies.

"For energy security and carbon emission concerns, nuclear power is very much back on the national and international agenda," said study co-author Dan Kammen, UC Berkeley professor of energy and resources and of public policy. "To evaluate nuclear power's future, it is critical that we understand what the costs and the risks of this technology have been. To this point, it has been very difficult to obtain an accurate set of costs from the U. S. fleet of nuclear power plants."

"In the long term, whether these plants are 4 cents or 8 cents per kilowatt hour, they are still a good deal, if you think carbon is an issue," Kammen said, referring to the carbon dioxide emissions from oil, coal and gas-fueled power plants that exacerbate global warming. "If the argument is that cost really needs to be important, then I'm not sure nuclear competes that well."

The Wall Street Journal says that TXU will have to overcome regulatory hurdles to get its new plants approved. The utility hopes to havea new reactor operational by 2015.

Nuclear energy provides roughly 19% of the nation's power, but its share of the market has been declining.

Related articles

Nuclear power plants are financially risky given high costs. Nuclear power plants are risky investments given rapidly rising costs of construction of nuclear fuel, reports a new study by researchers from Georgetown University, Stanford University and UC Berkeley. The paper, published in the April 1 issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology, warns power companies that nuclear power may not be financially attractive even with generous government subsidies.

Environmental controversy brews over TXU deal. Initially hailed as a victory for the environment, the private equity deal to acquire Texas-energy company TXU Corp is now facing criticism from some green groups reports the Saturday issue of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).



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CITATION:
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com (April 10, 2007).

TXU hopes to build nuclear reactors instead of coal-fired power plants.

http://news.mongabay.com/2007/0410-txu.html