The Cost of Nuclear Power: Contrasting Views via The New York Times

To the Editor:

Eduardo Porter (“Coming Full Circle in Energy, to Nuclear,” Economic Scene column, Aug. 21) asserts that new nuclear plants constitute “potentially the cheapest energy source of all.” But there are many facts to the contrary.

Wall Street ended loans for new reactors in the late 1970s because of high costs. After a decade in which a nuclear revival has been promoted, only two new plants are under construction, and they are slowed by costly delays. After 15 years of no shutdowns, four American reactors have closed this year, with more shutdowns predicted. Executives claim that nuclear power cannot compete in the marketplace with sources like natural gas and wind.

The underlying reason for high nuclear costs is that reactors are dangerous, requiring many highly trained staff members, a complexity of expensive parts, compliance with extensive regulations, and antiterrorist measures to minimize public exposure to hazardous radioactivity.


Executive Director
Radiation and Public Health Project
Ocean City, N.J., Aug. 22, 2013

To the Editor:

Eduardo Porter has grasped the fundamental issue: Fossil fuels are becoming unacceptable, and nuclear can compete. With nuclear generators averaging 90 percent of capacity year round, wind at 30 percent and solar at 15 percent just do not cut it. Also, the intermittent nature of making electricity from the wind and the sun will always relegate those sources to minor status. How can you run an economy when the power dies on calm or cloudy days?

The upfront cost of nuclear is indeed daunting, but the reality is that those costs are spread over 60 or more years. That’s why today’s nuclear plants are such bargains, having been efficiently producing power for decades after the big initial investment.


Dana Point, Calif., Aug. 21, 2013

The writer is past president of the American Nuclear Society.

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