Nuclear power needs government subsidies, but struggles to make the case for them
WADSWORTH – Visiting the South Texas Plant Nuclear Operating Co. reminded me of the years I’ve spent on military bases. The machinery was huge and intimidating, the workers were courteous and professional, and the undertaking was important and dangerous.
That’s not surprising since many of the workers are veterans, and safety is the byword for everyone who enters the front gate. Reactor No. 2 was undergoing routine maintenance, so I was part of a group of journalists invited to take a look at the huge pipes that carry the steam to spin turbines the size of moving vans. We watched video monitors of the reactor and stood by the pool where all the old fuel rods are stored because the U.S. still doesn’t have a high-level nuclear waste facility that can take them.
The South Texas Plant is on the Colorado River near the coast in bucolic Matagorda County. The two reactors are owned by three partners, NRG Energy, Austin Energy and San Antonio’s CPS. When operating at capacity, which is most of the time, the plant generates enough electricity for 2 million houses and provides what is called base load, the minimum amount of power needed to keep the electric grid from collapsing.