Editor-at-Large David Whitford tours the U.S. to get a closer look at the industry:
Probably the earliest a new reactor could come online in the U.S. is 2015, and even that seems optimistic. There is plenty of opposition, despite what Earley says. And anything could happen over the next decade or so to knock the train off its track. A terrorist attack on a nuclear facility anywhere in the world would halt all progress overnight. So would another Chernobyl. But right now the momentum is swinging nuclear's way. Among the many green-light factors: rising natural-gas prices; soaring electricity demand; the looming prospect of a carbon tax; a new, streamlined regulatory process; and growing acceptance by environmentalists that nuclear energy, which emits no greenhouse gases, could have a vital role in saving the planet.Whitford starts at Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, and eventually makes his way to the Idaho National Lab. Be sure to go along for the ride.
This developing story has continental sweep, a huge cast of characters, multiple moving parts. So much of what we think we know we haven't reexamined in years. If we're going to try to reconcile nuclear power's cloudy past with the industry's bright vision of the future, we need to see for ourselves. Road trip, anyone?