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Energy efficiency or more nuclear power?

The outgoing mayor of New York City last month announced a very smart decision concerning street lighting and municipal energy use.
As the NY Post reported, in a “mammoth project” every one of the city’s 250,000 streetlights will be changed to energy-saving LED lamps.
The upfront cost is said to be $79 million and the resulting, yearly electricity and maintenance cost savings $14 million.
The LEDs’ 20-year life expectancy being more than triple that of the current bulbs and their electricity draw dramatically lower, the payback of nearly $150 million made the decision “a no-brainer,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
As a local example, 21 years after installation, in some lesser-used areas in my home, the energy-saving bulbs of an earlier technology period are still burning brightly.
Replacing the incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights made my monthly electricity bill plummet.
When New York City announced the switch, to conserve electricity and constrain costs, a writer at Forbes raised a question of great importance for the nation’s energy vision: “Can LED bulbs make nuclear plants obsolete?”
By coincidence, Michael Kanellos noted, the nation’s nuclear plants generate approximately the same amount of electricity (19 percent) as is consumed in lighting, and in expected future demand and generation output “lighting and power move hand in hand.”
He cited Department of Energy estimates that, through increased use of LED lights in households and commercial/industrial buildings, by the year 2030 “the annual electrical output of about 50 1,000-megawatt power plants” won’t be needed.
In answer to this big question, and reviewing it from different angles, the writer concluded that the “bulbs win hands down.”
Citing two new reactor units being built by the Georgia Power utility as an example, “nuclear would cost $105 billion, probably more” to generate the amount of electricity avoided by “the bulb solution.”
Choice of the latter would cost only $60 billion, and, given the rapid drop in price of LED bulbs, “around $36 billion two years from now.”
Nuclear plants take decades to “come online” and produce electricity. The bulbs can be installed overnight.
Because its very high development cost and uninsurable risk-liability cost have been extensively subsidized, Kanellos notes, “nuclear [has] epitomized big government.”
He explains that the cost of LED lights has declined through market competition and technological advances, and their widespread use “potentially will reduce government.”
The radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl accident remains in soils and still contaminates some food items in some parts of Europe, a quarter-century after the explosion.
A large tract of land around the plant will be uninhabitable for hundreds of years.
A similar scenario is unfolding in Japan, with potentially much higher fallout should the spent-fuel pool at Unit 4 of the Fukushima plant collapse.
As a last factor, the Forbes writer notes, “there is the issue of safety.”
Indeed, and much under discussion these days as the industry promotes the “Pandora’s promise” of nuclear power while citizens seek an energy future based on efficiency improvements and renewable-energy sources.