Charles Komanoff


Nuclear Power

March, 2109: To mark the 40th anniversary of the Three Mile Island reactor accident, which began on March 28, 1979, I've posted the text of Doing Without Nuclear Power, my article on nuclear power's diminished prospects that the New York Review of Books ran as its cover feature shortly after. My article used the TMI meltdown as a springboard to herald emerging energy-efficiency and renewable-energy technologies that would undermine the nuclear industry, especially in light of spiraling reactor costs that I was documenting in my soon-to-be-published book, "Power Plant Cost Escalation" (see below). Readers will note the article's framing of nuclear power as a too-costly alternative to oil, a concern that dominated energy-policy discourse throughout the 1970s and especially in the wake of the Iranian revolution and the "second oil shock" during 1979.

My 1981 book, Power Plant Cost Escalation: Nuclear and Coal Capital Costs, Regulation and Economics (large pdf, 12 MB) was a tour de force that cut through the murk and morass of the 1970s debate over the economics of nuclear power in the U.S. and foretold the nuclear industry's financial meltdown in the 1980s and beyond.

"Power Plant Cost Escalation" explained the upheaval in the economics of nuclear and coal electrical generation that occurred in the 1970s, and predicted further changes from the post-Three Mile Island vantage point. It investigated increases in nuclear and coal capital (construction) costs on three levels: empirical, engineering, and etiological (underlying causal). One chapter, "Sources of Nuclear Regulatory Requirements," was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nuclear Safety, July-August 1981 issue. Another chapter, "Pollution Control Improvements in Coal Fired Electric Generating Plants: What They Accomplish, What They Cost," was published in the Journal of the Air Pollution Control Association in Sept. 1980.

Together, the dozen chapters encompassed and settled the 1970s-1980s debate over the economics -- and the future -- of nuclear power. You may download this pdf of the complete 325-page book. (Write to KEA if you would like to obtain an original hard copy.) Alternatively, download the summary version consisting of Chapters 1 (Introduction) and 2 (Summary).

Cost Escalation in France's Nuclear Reactors: A Statistical Examination (pdf, 12 pp)

Executive Summary of 1992 Komanoff Energy Associates report for Greenpeace, "Fiscal Fission"

Complete 1992 KEA report for Greenpeace, Fiscal Fission: The Economic Failure of Nuclear Power (pdf), a report on the historical costs of nuclear power in the United States, 98 pages. Foreword by Harvey Wasserman.

"10 Blows That Stopped Nuclear Power". My 1991 article deconstructing the collapse of the U.S. nuclear power industry circa 1973-1981. A breezy yet insightful look back at how the energy source that appeared destined to "bestride the world like a colossus" was brought low by national and worldwide grassroots opposition, a run of astoundingly bad luck (karma?), and its internal contradictions and liabilities.

Op-ed published in Wall St Journal in 1984, Nuclear Crews Stretch Work, Up Costs.

"A Tale of Nuclear Narcissism" -- my review of a book, "Light Water: How the Nuclear Dream Dissolved," that plumbed the gulf between nuclear power's supposed promise and actual performance. Published in Feb. 1979, my review offers a glimpse at the fragile state of nuclear power on the eve of the Three Mile Island accident.

Spreadsheet comparing federal subsidies for wind power and nuclear power.