June 14, 2013 | 19 comments
May 28, 2013 | 28 comments
May 13, 2013 | 32 comments
February 8, 2013 | 146 comments
January 21, 2013 | 26 comments
One year later, there have be no casualties from radiation. But will the worldwide Nuclear Renaissance revive?
(Page 2 of 2)
Of all the countries with nuclear technology, Russia has been the most dismissive of the Fukushima accident. Speaking at the opening of the Kalininskaya reactor late last year, Premier Vladimir Putin scorned wind and solar energy and said if no one else is prepared to lead the world into a nuclear renaissance, Russia will. The Russians now get 17 percent of their electricity from nuclear and hope to raise it to 25 percent by 2030 with the construction of 38 new reactors.
Russia has sold reactors to India, Vietnam, and Iran and hopes to sell as many as 30 more abroad in the coming decade. Putin has proposed supplying the world with uranium out of a single large mine in Siberia. They are even touting their blunders at Chernobyl as giving them “experience” in the field of nuclear accidents. As one New York Times reporter marveled, “The Russians have a peculiar lack of discomfort with all things nuclear.” They have even offered to take any country’s spent fuel for reprocessing—a technology that we abandoned in the 1970s.
France has led Europe’s nuclear effort since Charles de Gaulle decided to free his country from foreign dependence in the late 1960s. France has 59 reactors, the highest per capita in the world, and gets 75 percent of its electricity from splitting the atom. As a result, it is only half as much dependent on Russian natural gas as the rest of Europe. Areva, a world-leading manufacturer, has nevertheless seen its position slip in recent years. Its Olkiluoto project in Finland, begun in 2005, was originally supposed to be completed by 2008 but is now not scheduled to open until 2014 at more than 50 percent over budget. An identical reactor in Flamanville on the Normandy coast, begun in 2006, is not scheduled to open until 2016. Bureaucratic delays and disputes over workmanship have slowed both projects. Still, Areva dominates nuclear construction in Europe and America. It is building both a weapons-plutonium recycling plant in South Carolina and a uranium enrichment plant in Idaho.
A nascent anti-nuclear movement has finally taken hold in France, but it is unlikely to close any reactors. If it did, Italy would probably collapse. The Italians responded to Chernobyl by shutting down all their reactors and now import 80 percent of their electricity. An Italian proposal to build eight new coal plants was shouted down in Europe and a subsequent plan to revive nuclear has been postponed indefinitely by the financial crisis. The Italians may be the first country to miss the nuclear boat completely.
Although they only started building reactors in the 1990s, the South Koreans have quickly become the world’s leading provider. KEPCO, the national utility, astonished everyone by beating out Wes-tinghouse and Areva for a $20 billion contract to build four new reactors in the United Arab Emirates in 2009. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited the UAE last December and the whole country celebrated with a National Nuclear Day to introduce schoolchildren to the technology.
And so we can now ask the question, “What are the prospects for nuclear energy in the United States?” The news is not great but perhaps not quite as bad as might be expected.
After almost eight years of deliberation, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission finally gave approval to the design of the Westinghouse AP1000 last December—the model that is already being built in China. If, as expected, the NRC also issues a construction-and-operating license to Southern Electric this year, then the utility will be able to start work on twin reactors at its Vogtle site in Georgia. It would be the first newly licensed project since 1976. Southern already has 1,500 construction workers on the job doing site preparation.
Flamanville-type delays can be expected. When bulldozers leveled the first mounds of fresh earth last year, the NRC made them do it all over again. Then it suspended operations for a month because two employees had given oral assurance that they were not addicted to drugs instead of filling out a written form. With this kind of oversight, the project could take more than a decade to complete.
Still, nuclear construction may not be impossible. Flying under the radar, the Tennessee Valley Au-thority has completed two reactors in the last six years using licenses originally issued in the 1970s. Both were completed on time and on budget. But then, the projects didn’t attract much attention from opposition groups.
The real problem is that the American nuclear industry has become one giant corporation operating out of central headquarters in the 11-story offices of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Nothing can be done without processing it through Beltsville, and the pace is glacial. Over the past two years, Constellation Energy of Baltimore and NRG Energy of New Jersey have abandoned major projects out of despair of ever gaining NRC approval.
Such centralization makes innovation almost impossible. Over the past decade, inventive engineers have adapted the small modular reactors we have been putting on submarines since the 1950s into commercial designs. There are almost a dozen proposals for such reactors on the drawing boards but none has much of a chance of making it through NRC licensing over the next decade. The Russians are mounting a 150-megawatt reactor aboard a barge to be floated into an isolated Siberian coastal village to provide power. South Korea, Japan, and China are all moving ahead have similar designs. It is no wonder that Bill Gates decided to develop his Travelling Wave abroad.
So there is a distinct possibility that we could wake up in ten years to find the giants of Asia have passed us by in nuclear technology and we have no choice but to buy it from them—just as we are now buying our nuclear infrastructure from France. As one blogger commented to the CNN story announcing the opening of China’s Integral Fast Breeder, “In case you missed the 19th century, this is what the transfer of world domination looks like.”
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?