Virginia, Take Another Look at Nukes

Terrapower’s technology is said to be safer than older nuclear technologies. Nuclear can provide a carbon-free electricity base-load that wind and solar cannot.

by Brian Glass

Dominion Energy, Inc., has ordered 176 wind turbines from Siemens Gamesa for its 2.6-gigawatt offshore wind farm at a cost of $9.8 billion. Electricity consumers will pay for this generating capacity. Let’s take a look at whether or not we will be getting our money’s worth.

The Virginia Clean Economy Act went into effect on July 1, 2020, with a goal of a carbon-free electric grid by 2050. The timetable for installing the first 880 megawatts turbines is 2024, with Phases Two and Three scheduled for 2026. Assuming a projected life span of 30 years, the useful life of the turbines will end between 2054 and 2056, just a few years after the Commonwealth’s zero-carbon deadline.

This doesn’t seem logical to me. The State Corporation Commission, which has received Dominion Energy’s application for the project, should take a hard look at whether or not it can meet the goals of the Virginia Clean Economy Act beyond the arbitrary 2050 deadline.

Alternatives need to be explored before the wind farm is given the green light. One of those alternatives is nuclear energy.

Dominion has vast experience with nuclear energy. In fact, its North Anna Nuclear Generating Stations have been in operation since 1978 (Unit 1) and 1980 (unit 2) respectively. The construction cost in 2007 dollars was $3.861 billion dollars for 1.79 gigawatts of capacity. Both units have exceeded the 30-year lifespan of the wind turbines. Based on their safety records, there is currently no reason to expect that their licenses shouldn’t be renewed once again in 2024.

Billionaire Bill Gates, through Terra Power, will be constructing a new-generation nuclear power plant in Kemmerer, Wyoming, that’s expected to be completed in 2028 for $4 billion dollars and have a life expectancy of 60 years. The Federal Government is funding half of the cost.

Why nuclear rather than wind? Nuclear requires less space, it’s more reliable than wind, as Europe, and Great Britain, discovered this past summer when the wind didn’t blow in the North Sea and electricity prices skyrocketed. The raw material needed is a fraction of what will be needed for the proposed offshore wind farm. While It’s true that nuclear waste is more difficult to dispose of, its volume is 1/500th that of wind. This figure includes abandoned infrastructure, and toxic substances according to Jacopo Buongiorno, a nuclear-engineering Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has the time to make a decision based on the science, as well as the long-term cost to its citizens, and businesses, before approving the Dominion Energy application.

Brian Glass, a commercial real estate broker, lives in Henrico County.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the total cost of the offshore wind project would be $12.7 billion. Dominion spokesman Rayhan Daudani says the “all in” cost is $9.8 billion.

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8 responses to “Virginia, Take Another Look at Nukes”

  1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    This makes a lot of sense. I have long advocated for more use of nuclear power.

  2. tmtfairfax Avatar

    I’m looking forward to electric service from an NC coop. Yesterday, we experienced outages numbers 9 and 10 since October 2020. And from separate causes. Despite rebuilding the circuit that serve my neighborhood last fall, it failed again. About 4 and 1/2 hours later, power restored. A couple hours more, power is out again. This time an untrimmed tree got tangled in the electric wires. Another 4 hour plus outage. Dominion Energy is the worst company in the United States, bar none.

    Turning to nuclear energy, someday we will see the breakthrough in nuclear energy — fusion. But that will truly disappoint some enviros who relish the thought that the only way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to live a miserable life in a too-small apartment, taking an electric bus and eating bugs. But I hope the rest will celebrate people living better and more expansive lives with plentiful and affordable nuclear power.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      When I see the pro-nuke folks demand that “safe and affordable” Nukes be built near their homes… I’ll take them more seriously than those nasty enviros…. 😉

  3. The Amazing Criswell Avatar
    The Amazing Criswell

    Why does out monopoly electricity supplier put such an emphasis on investing in the most expensive and least reliable forms of energy production? How about investing in the least expensive and most reliable sources of energy?

  4. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    You could build a 800-MW nat gas plant about the size of a big house and it could be ultra-clean and efficient, and very low cost. Too low cost for decent political campaign donations etc. Need big mega projects to really make elected officials happy. Nukes do qualify there. But get me some of the guvment money like Bill Gates is getting. We can export the nat gas (and wood chips) to Europe.

  5. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    If am a Virginia elected official or Dominion stock holder, I love this discussion. Do we want to do Super Expensive Mega Project behind Door#1 or Door#2? Or both? Campaign donations for life.

    I give two way cheaper options: (1) nat gas with carbon capture ( or blue H2) or (2) on-shore wind, OK, (3) stop landfilling garbage and make energy out of it, and maybe, OK (4) roof top solar in some cases.

  6. ThinkPower Avatar

    What nonsense. The VCEA does support continued operation of the Commonwealth’s existing nuclear fleet. The only new reactors in America, Vogtle 3 and 4 are $25 billion and way behind schedule. The offshore wind is cheaper. And “Nuclear requires less space” is laughable given that the offshore wind literally uses zero land. Offshore wind is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a massive new workforce in Virginia.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    I like the idea of modern Nuclear that is safer than conventional 60-year old designs and I simply don’t understand why the premise is Wind OR Nuclear especially when the Terra Power are not ready yet. That plant is Wyoming is a pilot if I understand correctly. What exactly should Dominion be proposing – a pilot planned for 2024?

    So we should kill the offshore wind and wait? I Dominion would be a laughing stock and lose credibility if they made such a proposal.


    The problems in Europe are different. For one thing, natural gas primarily comes from Russia – with strings attached. when we talk about “small” footprints, think Chernobyl and Fukushima – not so small footprints.

    And if we think nukes are so wonderful , propose one for ….say… Henrico county and see the response… why I bet even the Pro-Nuclear crowd that lives in Henrico would have some qualms… no?

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