Breezing Past Nuclear Power's Value

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It was amusing that Michele Boyd, energy program legislative director for Public Citizen [letters, Jan. 18], pointed to federal investment in nuclear energy, rather than Mother Nature, as the reason the United States cannot rely on wind and solar power as round-the-clock sources of electricity.

Federal research and development policies aren't the reason that, as the online newsletter Energy Pulse reported, wind power production "at the time of peak demand" during last summer's California heat wave was just 4 percent of that energy source's rated generating capacity. While the windmills were there, the wind wasn't.

It was also instructive that Ms. Boyd didn't provide a source for her statistical comparison of federal research and development investment in renewable and nuclear energy technologies. A January 2002 study by the Cato Institute, citing Energy Department figures, noted that from 1982 to 2002 renewable energy technologies received $24.2 billion in federal research and development funds, compared with $20.1 billion for nuclear power.

As for Ms. Boyd's claim of a nuclear bounty in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, she ignored the reality that the legislation authorized $600 million more for renewable energy R&D over three years ($2.2 billion vs. $1.6 billion) and included a mandate that the federal government buy at least 7.5 percent of its electricity supplies from renewable sources by 2013.

Ms. Boyd can garble the numbers, but she can't change the fact that federal investment in nuclear energy has benefited society by helping to yield 20 percent of America's real -- rather than theoretical -- electricity.


Vice President

Nuclear Energy Institute


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