Nuclear power doesn't add up [Letter]

September 04, 2014

I read with interest the commentary, "The nuclear option" (Aug. 26), in The Baltimore Sun, and I wanted to comment on just one aspect of this public pitch for nuclear power. The author omitted the fact that Constellation Energy made application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to construct and operate Calvert Cliffs 3 in 2009, as I recall.

They went into partnership with the French-owned Electricite de France to form UniStar Nuclear Energy to build an evolutionary pressurized water reactor similar to what is notoriously still under construction in Finland. As I am sure you are aware, Constellation dropped the project like a hot potato over the cost of financing a $7.9 billion federal loan guarantee leaving EDF in violation of the foreign ownership prohibition clause of the Atomic Energy Act. EDF spent more than two years looking for a U.S. domestic partner. No one has picked up the application or the federal money. Even Exelon, the nation's largest nuclear utility and buyer of Constellation, has declined to resume the project over the unpredictably high cost of construction.

Note, too, that the cost of French nuclear electricity, state generated, is steeply climbing to manage the cost of its aging nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power remains a financial tar pit. Despite taxpayer-backed federal loan guarantees and ratepayer-financed construction work in progress, the U.S. owners for the four units the writer cites have ignored the danger signs and ventured beyond are losing their credit ratings as the projects predictably continue to fall behind schedule and their construction costs soar out of control. Tennessee Valley Authority, our federally-owned electric utility, has had its construction permit for Watts Bar 2 for approximately a quarter of a century and still hasn't turned the reactor on.

Meanwhile, Google has invested $5 billion in a high voltage direct current transmission line for interconnecting a series of offshore deep water wind farms from Virginia to Rhode Island that Stanford University concludes could power one-third of the U.S. power needs. The first vertebra (179 miles) of that transmission backbone is underway off the coast of New Jersey.

Paul Gunter, Takoma Park

The writer is director of the reactor oversight project for Beyond Nuclear.

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