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Math guts nuclear myth | May 12

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Even more costs to consider

The story comparing the life cycle costs of natural gas versus nuclear power seems to omit some major cost considerations.

First, I did not see any mention of the cost to decommission the nuclear plant option. A sampling of some historical costs for decommissioning nuclear plants in North America show costs ranged from $25 million to $1 billion (actual costs, not present value), with an average of just under $500 million. With these costs occurring late in the life cycle, they will carry a greater weight than the numbers stated above.

Secondly, depending on the type of decommissioning, the plant may still exist in an unusable condition for many years, occupying the land and preventing other uses. There is a potential unknown cost for that as well.

A third issue is the 60-year lifespan assumed for the nuclear plant. Nuclear plants in the United States have historically been designed for a 30-year life, and are licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate for 40 years. To extend that license and continue operating, the operators would likely have to complete additional maintenance and repairs above and beyond what is considered normal to keep the plant operating beyond its planned design life. In other words, the older the plant, the more maintenance it will require.

I suspect that the original budget put forth also does not include adequate costs for protection from storm surge. Levy County is a low-lying coastal area. To provide assurance that storm surge does not reach critical areas as happened in Japan, the plant facilities would need to be elevated significantly.

The issues of decommissioning, land use, extra maintenance and storm-surge protection will not change the conclusion of the article. They strengthen the cost argument against nuclear plants. If the Tampa Bay Times' conclusions about corporate profit are correct, I hope concerned citizens will contact their government officials and voice their opinion about being taken advantage of.

David Cabage, Palm Harbor

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Readers' comments on business news 06/01/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 31, 2013 3:59pm]
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