NRG asks Austin to invest in South Texas nuclear facility expansion

The Austin American Statesman ran an article yesterday reporting on the City Council’s likely decision to hire a consultant to look into expansion of the South Texas Project nuclear power facility.

In February NRG invited the City Council, which owns a 16% stake in the plant,  to invest in a project that would double the size of the South Texas facility.  Austin declined when it was determined that the expansion would take an additional $1 billion and 2 years to complete than expected.  Now NRG is asking the Council to reconsider, and they will likely hire a consultant to evaluate NRG’s offer.

Karen Hadden, Executive Director of the SEED (Sustainable Energy and Economic Development) Coalition, responds:

stxplantmapAustin should continue to steer clear of more nuclear power. Morally, it is simply wrong to leave radioactive waste to thousands of generations to come. We should instead invest in safe energy efficiency and solar and wind power, which don’t come with radioactive terrorism risks.

Economically, nuclear power is a disastrous nightmare. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission data shows that nuclear power is the most expensive way to generate electricity. The City of Austin’s new study is likely to show that the economic risks have increased since their first look.

The two South Texas Project reactors would run between $12 – 17.5 billion according to Dr. Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. If Austin were to invest as a 16% owner, the cost to every Austin Energy ratepayer would be over $7200, before cost overruns. Rate hikes would be huge. Last time, the nuclear reactors ran six times over budget and were eight years late coming online. Nuclear power also comes with huge costs at the end of reactor lifespans, since decommissioning is the most expensive funeral ever.

Austin was right to say no to the nuclear expansion in February, and we should tell New Jersey based NRG a resounding and final no this time around.

I wouldn’t fret too much about this consultant, though.  Even the Statesman article notes that it is highly unlikely the city will buy into the expansion — they just need more information on the deal.  In all likelihood, this report will just confirm what a terrible investment this would be for the city.