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PARIS — Solar photovoltaic systems have long been painted as a clean way to generate electricity, but expensive compared with other alternatives to oil, like nuclear power. No longer. In a “historic crossover,” the costs of solar photovoltaic systems have declined to the point where they are lower than the rising projected costs of new nuclear plants, according to a paper published this month.
“Solar photovoltaics have joined the ranks of lower-cost alternatives to new nuclear plants,” John O. Blackburn, a professor of economics at Duke University, in North Carolina, and Sam Cunningham, a graduate student, wrote in the paper, “Solar and Nuclear Costs — The Historic Crossover.”
This crossover occurred at 16 cents per kilowatt hour, they said.
While solar power costs have been declining, the costs of nuclear power have been rising inexorably over the past eight years, said Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and Environment.
Estimates of construction costs — about $3 billion per reactor in 2002 — have been regularly revised upward to an average of about $10 billion per reactor, and the estimates are likely to keep rising, said Mr. Cooper, an analyst specializing in tracking nuclear power costs.
Identifying the real costs of competing energy technologies is complicated by the wide range of subsidies and tax breaks involved. As a result, U.S. taxpayers and utility users could end up spending hundreds of billions, even trillions of dollars more than necessary to achieve an ample low-carbon energy supply, if legislative proposals before the U.S. Congress lead to adoption of an ambitious nuclear development program, Mr. Cooper said in a report last November.
The report, “All Risk, No Reward for Taxpayers and Ratepayers,” was a response to a legislative wish list developed by the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group. The institute has called for a mix of U.S. subsidies, tax credits, loan guarantees,

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