The problem with American environmentalism’s obsession that abstaining from nuclear power will prevent nuclear proliferation.
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Nuclear power is now keeping France afloat. Besides having Europe’s lowest electric rates — plus the lowest carbon emissions — electricity is now France’s third largest export. Belgium, Germany and Italy would close down tomorrow if France stopped sending them nuclear electricity. Marketing its technology to other countries has also become a major source of revenue. France is now building facilities in Finland, China, South Korea, Poland, and — believe it or not — that backwater of nuclear technology, the United States of America.
Russia, meanwhile, has bounced back from its economic doldrums, put containment structures around its reactors (a little detail it overlooked at Chernobyl), and renewed nuclear construction. The Russians brought their first new reactor online in 2001 and are now planning to add two or three more per year through 2030. They are also building reactors for China and Bulgaria and have signed various technological pacts with Brazil, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Vietnam, South Korea, Finland, Chile, and Bangladesh. In November 2008 the Russians announced they would build a reactor in Venezuela for Hugo Chavez.
WHERE DOES THIS leave us? Well, in 2005 George Bush, Jr. tried to revive America’s nuclear leadership with the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). The deal was we would build reactors for other countries, then keep control of the fuel so they couldn’t extract plutonium for nuclear weapons. This would mean reviving America’s nuclear reprocessing industry. GNEP hasn’t made much progress, however, and the rest of the world is moving along without us. In 2006, when I visited the Idaho National Laboratories, the Chinese nuclear delegation was passing through, consulting American scientists on which technology to pick for their new construction program. They eventually chose Westinghouse’s Advanced Passive 1000 design. Those reactors are already under construction. Meanwhile, we are at least five years from putting shovels in the ground for our first AP 1000. Nobody will be looking to us for leadership in the future.
In fact, there is hardly any nuclear industry left in this country. During the 1970s boom, Westinghouse and General Electric were the “big two,” with Babcock and Wilcox chipping in an occasional project (including Three Mile Island). B&W is still servicing its existing facilities but has no new designs. Toshiba bought Westinghouse in 2007. General Electric is peddling its “Generation III” ESBWR (Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor) but when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ranked 19 applicants for federal construction loan guarantees last October, the ESBWR came out near the bottom. Exelon, the nation’s second largest reactor owner, canceled two ESBWR projects and GE’s nuclear days may be just about over.
All the new nuclear construction in the U.S. is now being undertaken by Areva, the French nuclear giant. Last May Areva announced plans for a uranium enrichment facility in Idaho Falls and in October said it will join Northrop Grumman in building a nuclear components factory in Newport News. When asked how Areva planned to fund all these projects in the midst of a credit crisis, Jacques Besnainou, head of Areva’s American operations, smiled and replied, “Cash.” Reactors generally make about $2 million a day.
And so the world nuclear revival goes on without us. Meanwhile, American anti-nuclear activists sit like Buddhist monks, contemplating their navels and chanting, “I have banned all thoughts of nuclear from my head. Everyone else must do the same thing, too.”
So what will happen if Russia decides to look the other way while Hugo Chavez extracts a little plutonium and develops a bomb to defend himself against the Great Gringo of the North? We certainly won’t have anything to say about it.
It would be poetic justice if he aimed it at Berkeley. He’ll probably choose Dallas or New York or Washington instead.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?