Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pulling the Plug on Callaway II

The first of the new 26 nuclear power, the Callaway II, was suspended indefinitely last Thursday because the company financing it, AmerenUE, couldn’t secure financial stability from the state of Missouri before it began construction. According to KOMU and the New York Times, what really killed the plant was that the energy company couldn’t raise the electricity rates now to help pay for construction because of a law passed in 1976. AmerenUE had placed a bill in congress to overrule the law but withdrew it because it wouldn’t cover the cost of the new plant. The plant would have cost $6-$8 billion dollars and would have been the largest development in Missouri history. In this sort of economic turmoil, it’s no wonder that a project as big as this would be put on hold. On average, a new power plant costs $3600 to $4000 per installed kW. Companies have been financing this by charging customers 30 cents per watt the first thirteen years and then18 cents per watt for the remaining lifetime of the plant (the average resident pays about 10 cents/kWh.)

In the end though, it sounds like it’s all about politics. Those opposed to the bill thought it would raise the energy prices too much and they would be passing ‘the risk of a failed construction project onto the customer’ (Powering Down, 2009). The Sierra Club, a group strongly opposed the bill, said they will oppose any new proposals for power plants in Missouri. They would rather meet Missouri’s energy demands with renewable sources such as wind or solar. Ginger Harris, chair of the executive committee of the Missouri Sierra Club, thinks that if the money for the Callaway II project was put towards solar, that Missouri could reach a lot more customers and create a lot more jobs. But AmerenUE argues that there isn’t enough wind or solar in Missouri to meet the rising energy demands. Ameren UE Communications Executive Mike Cleary says that the only option the company was considering was nuclear, coal or natural gas. Now that nuclear is off the table, the only alternatives are energy sources that are more pollutant, exactly the kind of things that the Sierra Club hoped to avoid.

No comments: