A new nuclear era in the United States
It is not entirely new as I was mentioning it earlier, but this times actual developments are witnessed. A most interesting article on Dot Earth sums up the situation.
With the potential construction of up to 34 new reactors, the USA may play a part in the nuclear revival some people like James Lovelock are willing to see.
According to Andrew Revkin on Dot Earth :
My friend and sometime reporting partner Matt Wald has an important new story in our ongoing Energy Challenge series on what appears to be a shift from rhetoric about building new nuclear power plants to concrete action — if not yet the pouring of concrete. Here’s the nut:
[Twenty one] companies say they will seek permission to build 34 power plants, from New York to Texas. Factories are springing up in Indiana and Louisiana to build reactor parts. Workers are clearing a site in Georgia to put in reactors. Starting in January, millions of electric customers in Florida will be billed several dollars a month to finance four new reactors.
On Thursday, the French company Areva, the world’s largest builder of nuclear reactors, and Northrop Grumman announced an investment of more than $360 million at a shipyard in Newport News, Va., to build components for seven proposed American reactors, and more for export.
The change of fortune has come so fast that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which had almost forgotten how to accept an application, has gone into a frenzy of hiring, bringing on hundreds of new engineers to handle the crush of applications. Read more….
Matt notes that only a handful of the proposals are expected to move forward, and financial obstacles alone are huge. But there does seem to be a shift in the wind. Both presidential candidates have said nuclear power must play a role in cutting dependence on coal (and oil if plug-in hybrid cars catch on), although Senator Barack Obama has added caveats about safety and waste.
(…) In a video interview, James Lovelock, the author of “Revenge of Gaia,” told me that nuclear power is essential if we are to avoid a greenhouse overload. What’s your view? Do you live near a plant?
On the same topic, CleanTechnica also proposed an interesting article :
Exelon, the largest operator of nuclear power plants in the United States has filed a license application with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (US-NRC) to build two new nuclear power plants near Victoria, Texas. When operating, the plants will produce zero units of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, sulfur oxides, and fly ash.
Exelon has chosen the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) marketed by GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy. Each of the reactors will produce approximately 1,500 MW of electric power.
One of the key design features of the ESBWR is a large degree of passive safety provided by large water reservoirs, natural coolant circulation and safety systems that operate without any electrical power. (Link to animation of ESBWR safety system operation)
(…)A first order approximation for the annual revenue potential for a 3,000 MWe plant in Texas would therefore be 23,000,000 x $72 = $1.6 Billion. If the new reactors are able to operate at the current fleet average O&M cost of $17.60 per MW-hour, that would leave $1.2 billion per year available for loan repayment and corporate profit. Predicting prices and costs 8-10 years into the future is a job for soothsayers.
Those kind of numbers help to explain why there have been 12 applications to the NRC during the past 14 months, despite the fact that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 only provides direct subsidies for the first 6000 MW of new nuclear power (4-6 units depending on size).
(…) During the construction period, the new Exelon units could employ as many as 6,300 workers. Once the plants are operating, the steady state employment level will be approximately 800 people with annual salaries starting at about $65,000.
And you, what do you think about nuclear ? Is it a good thing ? a necessary evil ? or just a nuisance we should avoid ?
To conclude, I would like to send you to my review of James Lovelock’s book the Revenge of Gaïa. This sums up quite my point of view.