Sunday, January 29, 2006

NC and Southeast at the heart of nuclear energy increase debate

Raleigh's News and Observer analyzes the growing interest in increasing the supply of nuclear energy. This week's announcement by Progress Energy that it will seek to build two new reactors at its Shearon Harris plant near Raleigh certainly warrants the N & O's attention. The article looks at the energy industry angle and the views of anti-nuclear and environmental advocates.

For the energy providers, it comes down to federal regulations and population growth. They cite the costs required to meet emission standards at coal and gas-powered plants coupled with rapaid customer growth in the Southeast as the major reasons to seek an increase in nuclear reactors. Interesting facts on population growth include:

The need for more power plants to produce electricity is driven by growth, and it's no surprise that the Southeast is leading the revival of interest in nuclear energy. It has been among the nation's fastest-growing areas, and it is projected to account for more than half the nation's population growth between 2000 and 2030, according to the U.S. Census Bureau...Progress said more than 550 people per week moved into its service area in North and South Carolina in 2005. The utility expects 300,000 more customers to arrive in the next 10 years.

I also found this striking:

People in the Carolinas already get much of their electricity from nuclear plants. Reactors owned by Progress Energy and Duke Power generate about 45 percent of the power used in North and South Carolina -- about twice the national average. Coal-fired plants produce about 50 percent, and other technologies, including natural gas and hydro dam, produce
about 5 percent.

A nuclear opponent sees an old argument repackaged:

"Ten to 15 years ago, it was the answer to acid rain," (David) Lochbaum said. "Now it's being repackaged as the answer to global warming. If it could be repackaged as an answer to long lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles, we'd see that, too."

Other environmentalists and nuclear energy skeptics seem more receptive to at least considering nuclear energy as long as safety concerns are very carefully and thoughtfully addressed. Interesting situation as we live in interesting times. Good read.

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