Friday, April 13, 2007

More on Nuclear Power Resurgence

Brian Wang at Advanced Nanotechnology Blog, has a recent post up on the wildly accelerated pace of new nuclear plants to be built in Russia and China.
The United States has not had to rely significantly on nuclear power because energy from the abundant U.S. domestic coal supply (reserves are estimated at 520,494 million tons) is much cheaper than nuclear energy, which requires significant initial capital investment. However, from an economic perspective, energy suppliers are taking a second look at nuclear energy, since expected GHG regulations and requirements for coal plants to use cleaner technology will make coal-powered energy more expensive.

Other factors will add to the growing support for nuclear energy development in the United States. First, Americans too young to have seen the effects of nuclear plant disasters are much more open to nuclear development than the previous generation, particularly as younger citizens grow more concerned about climate change. Second, the notion of energy independence and security is popular with politicians and the public who view nuclear development as a way to make the country less dependent on petroleum from politically unstable regions. Further, environmental groups are beginning to come around to nuclear energy because of its potential role in slowing climate change; some environmentalists have come out in support of nuclear energy as a viable option (though most still prefer alternative energy and energy efficiency measures). A convincing argument for a repository like Yucca Mountain or a successful implementation of GNEP could certainly add to the growing support for nuclear energy development in the United States.

Merely replacing the existing U.S. fleet of nuclear reactors could be worth as much money as all of the planned expansions in France, Russia and China combined. Such a development would not only revolutionize the U.S. domestic nuclear industry but would also lead to expanded nuclear technology research and development worldwide. Also, U.S. acceptance of nuclear energy likely will lead to a quick increase in nuclear operations in other industrialized countries that have been hesitant to pursue further nuclear activity because of safety concerns.



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