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An understanding of the costs and benefits of alternative energy sources is needed in weighing the nuclear power option

An important variable is how much power can be generated using alternative forms of energy such as solar and wind, and other sources that are either renewable or cheaply available. North Carolinians need an independent evaluation of the potential of these energy alternatives. The good news is that state utility regulators have commissioned one.

Nobody is sure how long it will take to license nuclear power plants under the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005. A good guess is that it won't happen quickly. Still, the possibility of tapping into $2 billion worth of incentives, provided by the law, has made an application worth Progress Energy's while.

The Raleigh-based utility, which serves much of eastern North Carolina, is seeking permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to expand its Shearon Harris nuclear plant in southwestern Wake County. Whether it will follow through by deciding actually to build at least one more reactor at the Harris site, however, depends on the future demand for electricity and the availability of other ways to meet that demand. As of today, population growth suggests demand is rising steadily, but that could change.

An important variable is how much power can be generated using alternative forms of energy such as solar and wind, and other sources that are either renewable or cheaply available. North Carolinians need an independent evaluation of the potential of these energy alternatives. The good news is that state utility regulators have commissioned one.

Presently, alternative energy sources produce very little... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
Nobody is sure how long it will take to license nuclear power plants under the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005. A good guess is that it won't happen quickly. Still, the possibility of tapping into $2 billion worth of incentives, provided by the law, has made an application worth Progress Energy's while.

The Raleigh-based utility, which serves much of eastern North Carolina, is seeking permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to expand its Shearon Harris nuclear plant in southwestern Wake County. Whether it will follow through by deciding actually to build at least one more reactor at the Harris site, however, depends on the future demand for electricity and the availability of other ways to meet that demand. As of today, population growth suggests demand is rising steadily, but that could change.
 
An important variable is how much power can be generated using alternative forms of energy such as solar and wind, and other sources that are either renewable or cheaply available. North Carolinians need an independent evaluation of the potential of these energy alternatives. The good news is that state utility regulators have commissioned one.
 
Presently, alternative energy sources produce very little electricity in North Carolina -- less than 2 percent of the total. Most of the state's electricity comes from power plants fired either by coal or nuclear fission.
 
This is true despite technological advances that have made alternative energy less expensive. Two dozen states have moved further toward alternative energy by mandating that utilities generate or buy 30 percent of their power from renewable sources.
 
North Carolina has chosen voluntary programs, including ample tax credits for businesses and homeowners to install solar panels and such. Utility customers also can donate to the NC GreenPower fund, which supports 17 producers that use renewable sources to generate electricity and sell it to Progress Energy and Charlotte-based Duke Power.
 
If North Carolina required its utilities to produce more power with renewable sources of energy, utilities say, the rates would go up. A recent report from Progress Energy shows the cost of a kilowatt produced with coal or nuclear fission to be about 4 cents, far below most other alternatives.
 
Some argue that extra costs would be worth the benefit of less risk to the environment. Even with pollution scrubbers, coal plants produce carbon dioxide, which is blamed for global warming. While nuclear plants produce no greenhouse gases, they create radioactive waste that must be safeguarded for many centuries.
 
Now is a good time for state regulators to commission an independent assessment of alternative energy, rates and all. If the wind, sun or even the gas produced by buried trash could produce more electricity, it seems at least conceivable that the need for another nuclear reactor in our midst could be lessened to the point that nuclear expansion no longer would make economic or business sense.
 
By virtue of the fact that utilities are publicly regulated, North Carolinians have a say in the decision whether to build that reactor. So the Utilities Commission is right to inform the public's judgment on power plants that touch their lives in so many ways.
 


Source: http://www.newsobserver.com...

APR 18 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2210-an-understanding-of-the-costs-and-benefits-of-alternative-energy-sources-is-needed-in-weighing-the-nuclear-power-option
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