The American Wind Energy Association recently blogged to set the record straight regarding wind energy’s alleged high cost compared to nuclear power. AWEA responded to a post on the Wall Street Journal’s Environmental Capital energy blog, Going Nuclear: GOP Energy Plan Draws Heavy Flak, which discussed the merits of the Republicans’ proposed energy plan that calls for the construction of 100 new nuclear power plants. The WSJ blog post argued that costs related to wind power were considerably higher than those associated with nuclear power. AWEA countered, writing

Last year, wind proved its mettle as an affordable means of adding clean, reliable electricity to the grid, accounting for 42% of ALL new generation added in the U.S. Wind’s relatively short construction time (months rather than years) and modularity (it can be built incrementally) improves affordability even more since wind projects do not tie up capital for years. In contrast, we haven’t seen a new nuclear facility built in nearly a generation.

 

Climate Progress, an organization that offers a progressive perspective on climate policy, researched the cost of nuclear energy and concluded that nuclear power is too expensive to be a legitimate source of energy. Referring to a Keystone Center study partially funded by the nuclear industry, Climate Progress reported that “estimated capital costs for nuclear [are] $3600 to $4000/kW including interest.” On average, wind farms cost $2300/kW, making wind projects substantially cheaper than nuclear plants. This price will drop further as turbine manufacturers improve efficiency through mass production.

Neither the WSJ’s numbers nor the estimates provided by Climate Progress account for the cost of disposing of the nuclear waste created by atomic energy. Before the Obama administration scrapped plans for building the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, cost estimates had reached more than $92 billion over the 150-year lifetime of the storage facility, unadjusted for future inflation. The White House has not yet announced a new strategy for disposing of nuclear waste. Wind energy, of course, does not require the disposal of hazardous waste that will remain radioactive for thousands of years.

Furthermore, nuclear power plants do not benefit surrounding communities the way that National Wind’s community-based wind projects do. National Wind’s model offers landowners a financial stake in the project and involves them every step of the way in the decision making and planning process.

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