The Nuclear Energy Option: An Alternative for the 90's

By Bernard L. Cohen | Go to book overview

Chapter 2

/ DO WE NEED MORE
POWER PLANTS?

Power plants for generating electricity cost billions of dollars, which is very expensive by any standard, and a plant's cost must be borne by the utility that will sell its output. A utility will therefore not build a power plant unless it is needed and will yield an eventual profit. How does a utility decide to build such a plant?

Over the first 70 years of this century, the consumption of electricity grew at a steady rate of 7% per year, doubling every 10 years. In the early 1970s, it was therefore natural for utilities to assume that this trend would continue, so they planned for the construction of new power plants accordingly. Then, suddenly, in the wake of the 1973-74 energy crisis, the growth in electricity consumption slowed down, as conserving energy became the order of the day. The inflation and economic downturns that followed continued to have a depressing effect. Between 1973 and 1982, average growth in electric power consumption was only a little over 1% per year. That meant that the construction programs for new plants were leading to a gross excess

-9-

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