As an ex-nuke myself, I have long lamented the illogical choices people made to stop the development of nuclear power. Poor science training, negligible risk balancing skills and inflammatory rhetoric meant the US lost out on decades of low-risk, environmentally friendly energy, choosing to burn coal instead.
But one thing about science - it tends to be self-correcting and over time, good ideas persist. Nuclear power is officially back.
Since 2001, we and just about every other business publication have written stories on the coming nuclear renaissance. It’s a development that was seen as almost inevitable. The country needs more electricity. And with coal plants being blocked or cancelled because of concerns over global warming, nukes were looking more and more attractive. Sure, there are still lingering worries over waste disposal and nuclear proliferation, but the new generation of plants are safer and, the industry expected, cheaper to build. The question was, who would take the first leap? Now we have an answer. It’s a Princeton, NJ-based utility named NRG. On Sept. 24, the company and South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build two new nuclear units at the site of two existing nukes in Texas. "We think the nuclear renaissance is finally upon us," says NRG CEO David Crane. [More]The nation will be watching closely to see how construction goes. The design is well-proven and the opportunity could not be brighter for this form of energy, I think.
NRG has chosen Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) technology for the new units to be built at the STP site. The 12,220-acre site and 7,000-acre cooling reservoir were originally designed for four units. The two new units will be built adjacent to the currently operating STP units 1 and 2. ABWR technology is certified by the NRC and has an impressive construction and operational track record. This includes setting world records for construction time and bringing the units in on budget. Four ABWR units have been successfully commissioned in Japan, with another three units under construction in Taiwan and Japan. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc. has more than a decade of experience in ABWR operations and has provided their expertise to supporting STP’s planned two-unit expansion. [More]The availability of cleaner electricity could shift the energy balance for transportation as well. Any kind of carbon tax could raise the reward for hybrids and plug-ins. Such an economic influence would change the mix of cars in cities at least, and certainly impact the demand for transportation fuels.