Environmental Engineering Reference
In-Depth Information
for wind power are low. Bigger and better turbines have resulted in wind
power prices dropping by about 20% over the past several years. In Den-
mark, wind power costs were almost 17 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) in
the early 1980s. This includes equipment, labor, interest on loans, opera-
tion and maintenance. It dropped to about 6.1 cents by 1995 and was 4.5
cents by 2001. Power from a new coal-fired power plant can cost 5 to 6.4
cents per kWh and 4 to 5.7 cents per kWh for a gas-fired plant, and 4.6 to
6.5 cents per kWh for a nuclear plant, according to UNIPEDE, the Euro-
pean Utility Association.
The cost of wind-powered electricity should continue to fall in the fu-
ture but the steep start-up costs of installing wind turbines are the down-
side of wind power.
Nuclear is an energy option that provides about 20% of our power.
France uses nuclear energy to generate almost 80% of its electric power
and a number of other countries are more dependent on this energy op-
tion than the United States even though the technology was invented and
developed here. Nuclear power could make the U.S. less dependent on
foreign oil and provide a clean option for producing hydrogen.
The nuclear power industry has been at a standstill in the United
States based on fears that nuclear is too dangerous. Besides France at 80%,
Belgium generates 60% of its power from nuclear, Switzerland 42%, Swe-
den 39%, Spain 37%, Japan 34% and U.K. 22%. These countries that gener-
ate a higher percentage of their power with nuclear energy than the U.S.
have done so without any loss of life or harm to the environment. No
form of power generation is 100% safe but nuclear power may be safer
than many alternatives for generating large amounts of electrical energy,
such as oil and coal plants. This is because the fuel in a nuclear power
plant is highly concentrated. One uranium fuel pellet measures about 0.3-
inch diameter by 0.5-inch long and can provide the equivalent energy of
17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, 1,780 pounds of coal, or 149 gallons of oil.
Since relatively little fuel is used, relatively little waste is produced and
this waste is contained within the plant walls. This is not the case with
fossil fuel plants, which emit tons of pollutants into the atmosphere. Some
nuclear power plants have cooling towers that emit water vapor.
Nuclear power plants could also be a major source of hydrogen. If
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