Nuclear Renaissance Stagnates, Companies Rush For Approvals
After Fukushima the nuclear industry lobby groups were quick to declare the “nuclear renaissance” would continue with no slowdown. The latter portion of 2011 has seen a rather strange actions out of the NRC. The Near Term Task Force won approval for a sweeping set of safety overhauls. Then the design approval for the AP 1000 reactor was rammed through the NRC with some agency technical experts declaring the design is not safe. This added to the bizarro world spats that played out in Congressional hearings recently. Members of the NRC committee have been busy playing back stabbing politics rather than assuring the public that safety would be a priority.
Former NRC commissioner Peter A Bradford explained some of the politics and games that goes on at the NRC. Huffington Post did an in depth expose on the Byzantine Politics that goes on between the nuclear energy industry and the US government agencies that both govern and promote nuclear power.
Many energy analysts have declared the nuclear renaissance to be a burst balloon (or at least leaking quickly) with only 2 new reactor projects with any solid plan to begin construction. Costs for these new reactor designs that are claimed to be “safer” though that is never been proven, have gone through the roof. Before Fukushima these reactors were really not cost effective. With new safety upgrades the cost of one of these projects could have another 50% added to the cost. Currently the US is heavily subsidizing nuclear plant construction and some utilities have found ways to force consumers to pay for reactor projects before they are even approved to be built. Arm twisting consumers to pay for new nuclear projects may not go over well. If you tell someone they are going to be forced to pay another fee on their utility bill to have a reactor they may not want or consider safe built in their back yard the response is generally not positive.
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