I disagree with Dan Hazen's assertion that nuclear power is prohibitive. Prohibitive how? Because it may be dangerous? Because it is too expensive? Why? The fact that coal is the least costly way of producing energy, save hydroelectric, is correct. It is also true that nuclear is the second least costly way of producing energy but not by much. I would like to offer some information on alternative energy sources since Mr. Hazen has suggested we do so.
Today, nuclear power has emerged as the method of choice across the world. This is directly attributable to the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. In the United States, 47 new nuclear plants have been permitted and are to be built starting now through 2017. In the past 5 years, 26 new plants have been put into operation worldwide with another 87 permits planned for 2008. In contrast to coal, the reality that nuclear plants are only slightly more costly to build offsets the fact that the generating capacity, depending on size, can last from 10 to 30 years without re-fueling and the cost to ratepayers per kw is far less. There are no shipping charges with nuclear and no need for huge tracts of land to store the coal.
Many people believe that nuclear plants today are large, cumbersome monstrosities that pollute our waters. Not so-the nuclear plants built today can be large, yes but can also be very small. Many singular communities in all parts of the world have used custom-made nuclear plants that serve as single city. In Siberia, a small (105MWe) nuclear plant has been operating for 35 years providing steam heat for homes and all the power needs of a community of 30,000 people. It may surprise many to learn that Russia is the largest producer of nuclear plants in the world and has captured a huge market share of all the new plants installed worldwide.
Nuclear power should not be dismissed. The building cost per kw for nuclear power is approximately $1500 to $1800 this compares favorably with $1000 to $1200 for coal considering it includes the cost of disposal and dismantling. Great technological advances over the past 20 years has pushed nuclear power into the mainstream and it is becoming the preferred choice of many countries to solve their energy woes. Contrary to public believe that our Uranium sources are being depleted is not at all accurate. Increases in the installation of nuclear plants has stimulated Uranium output in many countries. This has prompted the building of many safe disposal sites and technology allows the by-products of nuclear fission to be produced, stored and sold right from the generating plant thus providing increased profits for the plant operators.
Does the Virgin Islands want nuclear power? This is a question that must be asked since we have to explore every possibility. What is definitely true is that if nuclear power was a reality in the Virgin Islands, discounting the payback for the building costs, our bills would be 1/10 that of oil. It should also be realized that when comparing costs of any kind for nuclear with those of other fuels, oil isn't even considered. The comparisons are generally with coal and natural gas. The Virgin Islands is the only place in the American system which is 100% dependant on oil. Very few countries use oil as an energy-producing source in any appreciable amount thus there can be no comparison. It is widely known that generating costs per kw with oil are between 5 and 10 times that of nuclear, coal or natural gas.
We should at least consider the possibilities of coal, natural gas and nuclear.
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