I ran some numbers today. Numbers relating to the cost to build a new nuclear power plant. And the cost to install solar panels.

To cut through the wordiness of both those links (mostly the former) here’s the highlight reel: since no new nuclear plants have been built in the USA in over 30 years, estimating costs is pretty much guesswork, but the 2007 guesswork puts prices at anywhere from $2/watt (lowest estimates, mostly from utilities and/or the possible contractors…in other words, people with questionable conflicts of interest) up over $4/watt ($4.3/watt via a later redacted report from a utility; and a S&P report that estimated “final construction costs” in 2007 dollars as $4.3-4.55/watt…that’s $4.57-$4.83 in 2011 dollars).

Solar costs are much easier to pin down, since people are actually, you know, buying solar panels. That source there estimates that new solar costs around $4/watt.

Wait, what?

Here’s the best part: the cost of solar panels keeps dropping, while the construction costs to build new nuclear reactors (with things like 12-foot think concrete walls) keep going up.

So here’s the question, if new nuclear and new solar cost the same, why the hell are we even considering a technology that has the chance (however small*) of blowing up and killing us all (yeah, that’s an overstate…unless “us all” is the subset of people living within a mile or two of the 104 nuclear power plants in America) instead of a technology that not only has no chance of blowing up and killing us all, but that can be installed in a decentralized grid, thus making our entire power system resistant to disruption from storms, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, or human error.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, commercial scale wind turbines cost $1.75/watt.

They also have no chance of blowing up and killing us all.

*There are currently 442 nuclear power plants in the world. There have been at least 6 “nuclear accidents” in the past 51 years. Simple math (I know this probably calls for more advanced math, but I’m lazy) gives the “accident chance” at 1.36%.