Idaho Governor Lobbying Hard for Nuclear Power

Published December 1, 2007

Pointing out that solar and wind power are heavily subsidized and expensive, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) is stumping across the state for nuclear power.

“Alternative energy, clean energy–those are all great ideas,” Otter told the University Presidents Council of Idaho universities on October 2. “But when you take a look at the impact they have and the subsidy they need, solar and wind both are tremendously subsidized. I think there are other clean energy alternatives. I think nuclear is one of them. I’m behind nuclear.”

Alternative Power Ill-Suited

Idaho does not rank in the top 10 states for wind power suitability, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Moreover, the state’s northern latitude makes it ill-suited for solar power. Even in the ideal location of southern California’s Mojave Desert, solar power cannot be produced at prices anywhere near being cost-competitive with conventional power plants.

Noting the differences between the states and their comparative ability to produce power from alternative sources, “Part of the problem is that federal solutions tend to be one-size-fits-all,” Otter noted at an October 1 sustainable development symposium at the University of Idaho. “That’s something the states seem to do better than the federal government.”

Nuclear Power Less Expensive

Otter’s stumping for nuclear power is likely to boost the chances for construction of the proposed Grand View nuclear power plant. The facility, which will generate 1,600 megawatts of power at a construction cost of $3.5 billion, is being touted as a more cost-effective means for Idaho to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

By comparison, a state-of-the-art solar power plant currently being proposed in Florida by Florida Power & Light will cost nearly half as much money as the proposed Idaho nuclear power plant and will produce less than one-fifth as much power. A similar solar plant in Idaho would be even less efficient than the proposed Florida solar power facility, as Idaho gets far less solar energy than Florida.

“Nuclear power is the only economically feasible means to reduce greenhouse gases, if we assume for the sake of argument that reducing greenhouse gases is a worthwhile public policy goal,” said Jay Lehr, science director for The Heartland Institute.

“Impressive new technology is also making nuclear power safer and less expensive all the time,” Lehr added. “The future of energy production in this country is definitely nuclear.”

James Hoare ([email protected]) is an attorney practicing in Rochester, New York.