Suppose you were an owner of your local utility and I proposed the following: would you allow me to modify one of your 440MW coal plants? This modification will cost $1-2 billion - about the same as a new 440MW nuclear plant.

When completed, the fuel cost will increase, not decrease. Not only will the modified plant use the same amount of coal it currently uses, it needs gas for a 150MW gas plant. Moreover, you won't gain any benefit from that gas plant. Its entire energy output goes to power the proposed modification.


When completed, the operating and maintenance cost of the coal plant will increase, not decrease. Not only will you have to continue paying the cost of operating the coal plant, but you will also have to pay these costs for a 150MW gas plant as well. In addition, you will have to pay the operating and maintenance cost of a highly complex, never tried before on this scale industrial process that will be added to the plant. Together, the operating cost will probably double - maybe more.

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When completed, the modification will reduce the CO2 emissions by 95% if successful and you ignore the CO2 emissions of the gas plant needed to power the modification. If you include the CO2 emitted by the gas plant, the net CO2 emissions will be reduced by about 75% - no better than a new 440MW gas plant that would cost 1/10th as much.

Finally, it may or may not work: the technology has never been tested at this scale.

Are you excited about this proposal? Apparently, our state legislature is: that's precisely what they are proposing with Project Tundra. House bills 1380 and 1452 would funnel public monies and legacy funds to this proposal.

Jacob Glower is a professor of electrical engineering at North Dakota State University.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.