Saturday, June 18, 2011

Can US Energy Giant TVA Save US Nuclear Power from its NRC?

Giant US energy provider TVA has signed a letter of intent for the construction of 6 125 MW small modular reactors (SMRs) from Babcock and Wilcox, a solid company with a long record of building small reliable reactors for the US military.

TVA is also looking at reviving a half-built reactor located in Alabama, in an effort to jump-start the process of building new nuclear reactors which has been stymied by the obstructionist US bureaucracy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
Because the plant already has a precious construction license, albeit from 1974, and because of the authority’s independent status, it faces far fewer obstacles than most other reactor builders.

The T.V.A. does not answer to state regulators. It has no shareholders to worry. As a federally chartered corporation established in 1933 as part of the New Deal, it is overseen by nine directors who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Today it supplies electricity across parts of seven states, serving roughly nine million people.

It also enjoys financial advantages that most public utilities lack, borrowing money at rates similar to those paid by the United States Treasury, which is critical for building hugely expensive reactors.

That makes it one of the very few American builders that could pull off a nuclear power comeback in this climate. With the exception of Watts Bar 1, another T.V.A. plant that was mothballed for a time but was finished in 1996, no new reactor construction has been started since the early 1990s. _NYT

Meanwhile in Russia, 8 massive new floating nuclear reactors are being readied for service in the Arctic -- to assist in development of massive hydrocarbon resources there. Russia's economy is dependent on its energy exports, and Russia is not reluctant to utilise its nuclear technology to benefit its economy -- unlike the government bureaucrats in the US [TVA excepted _ed.].

While Russia's vast energy resources are keeping the nation's economy afloat -- barely -- corruption in high places of Russian government place ever greater demands on Russia's rusting energy industry.

Perhaps Russia should also look into selling nuclear power to lefty-Luddite dieoff.orgy governments in western Europe, such as Germany. Several nations in Europe appear determined to commit energy suicide by rejecting nuclear and embracing unreliable and exorbitantly expensive wind and solar. Russia is in an excellent position to take advantage of that irrational streak in modern European governments.



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