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Monday, November 23, 2009

Duke Energy's Jim Rogers: Why nuclear power will probably trump coal

Duke’s Rogers: Why nuclear power will probably trump coal
Duke Energy boss Jim Rogers is a big voice on energy and climate change for a couple of simple reasons. He runs a big utility, heavily invested in coal power, and he’s an outspoken proponent of climate-change legislation that spooks many of his peers.

Duke’s Jim Rogers: “We could find ourselves in 2050 where coal has a limited role, if any.” (AP photo)
So his take on America’s energy future is usually interesting. No exception in this recent interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, where he makes the case for why nuclear power will likely beat coal in a country still heavily reliant on the black stuff.

Coal has all sorts of issues, he says, not just carbon emissions. Coal plants produce other particulate emissions, create fly-ash dumps, and promote harsh mining practices:
Decarbonization of coal is just on top of that. If you asked me today based on current technologies–and assuming we have no advances in technology with respect to decarbonization of coal–I would say nuclear would trump coal because it produces zero greenhouse gases, it provides power 24/7, and, probably most importantly, it probably produces more jobs than even solar or wind on a per-megawatt basis.
Now, Mr. Rogers has been amping up his support for nuclear power since the summer, including a big op-ed in the WSJ. He’s often mentioned the jobs angle before, but rarely with such detail:
In an operation of a nuclear plant, there [are] .64 jobs per megawatt. The wind business–and we have a very large wind business–is .3 jobs per megawatt. In the solar business–and we’re installing solar panels–it’s about .1. But the difference in the jobs is quite different, because if you’re wiping off a solar panel, it’s sort of a minimum wage type of job, [with] much higher compensation for nuclear engineers and nuclear operators. If our goal is to rebuild the middle class, nuclear plays a key role there, particularly if coal is out of the equation.
Ever since last year’s presidential campaign, the energy debate has been largely a jobs debate—for better or for worse. With unemployment still creeping upward, will jobs—not joules—be the crucial element for America’s energy future?

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