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Nuclear Renaissance -The First Plant in 30 Years – Renewable and Sustainable Energy

August 2, 2010

A hundred miles southwest of Houston, amid the refineries and petrochemical plants that dot Texas’ Gulf Coast, construction on the first fully licensed nuclear plant to be built in this country in the last 30 years could begin soon.

For the remainder of the article (by Steve Hargreaves, staff writer, November 02, 2009), visit:;jsessionid=1CAB061D4054106829F86E631FFA2B85.liveapp18j#p1
It may be of interest to share some information acquired during a recent meeting with Austin Energy’s (AE) Operations Team and a tour of their Sand Hill Energy Center, Del Valle, Texas. This station is AE’s newest gas-fired power plant (currently 300 Megawatts, with expansion to 500 Megawatts).

AE provided a cost breakdown for each type of fuel used to generate electricity. As a % of total power output and average cost (kWh), the breakdown was:

Nuclear – 20%, $0.08
Coal – 20%, $0.16
Gas (methane) – 40%, $0.25
Renewables [gas (methane), wind and solar] – 15-20%, $1.50 (unsubsidized).

Supply reliability is the reason gas appears in two line items, i.e., direct and renewable. Direct gas is reliably supplied 24/7 from one of three natural gas companies. Renewable gas is supplied from renewable sources such as landfill and water/sewage treatment; is limited, erratic and cannot be counted on when needed.

Government mandates and incentives appear to be the primary reasons why AE has plans for solar and wind assisted power plants.

Power from AE’s nuclear station is always online and is considered base output. Demand, cost and emissions compels AE to bring the gas and coal stations online when needed.

While AE’s nuclear plant provides the lowest cost of electricity, AE’s operations manager indicated further expansion of nuclear plants was considered but for undisclosed reason(s) was abandon. Plausible reasons may relate to nuclear’s high capital cost , the lengthy regulatory pathway and concern over waste disposal. Note: The French recycle nuclear wastes. Plutonium and uranium can be separated out of the waste and reused. Though recycling leaves a small amount of high-level waste to dispose of.

Sidebar: A 2004 article from the BBC states: “The World Health Organization says 3 million people are killed worldwide by outdoor air pollution annually from vehicles and industrial emissions, and 1.6 million indoors through using solid fuel.” In the U.S. alone, fossil fuel waste has been linked to the death of 20,000 people each year. A coal power plant releases 100 times as much radiation as a nuclear power plant of the same wattage. It is estimated that during 1982, US coal burning released 155 times as much radioactivity into the atmosphere as the Three Mile Island accident.

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