Skip to main content

Is the Future Outlook for Nuclear Energy Bright?

To every debate, there are two sides of the coin. How will nuclear energy stack up in a post-Fukushima world? Heads—nuclear energy will continue to prosper and become even safer despite potential regulatory hurdles that could befall the industry. Tails—Fukushima’s impact on the industry will force new nuclear energy production to come to a screeching halt.

David Crane, president and CEO of NRG Energy, believes that the future outlook for nuclear energy is “dim.”

The Hartford Business Journal writes:
America’s long-term energy future lies with both large- and small-scale solar and wind generation, especially solar, backed up by baseload and peaker power plants using a variety of fuels, Crane said. The bulk of that back-up fuel source was supposed to be nuclear power, he said, but after the Japanese nuclear disaster in March, the regulatory burdens make expanded nuclear nearly impossible.
The Journal continues:
The problem with nuclear isn’t the typical not-in-my-backyard neighbors concerns, as nuclear is widely accepted in the South, said Crane. Instead, nuclear development suffers from regulatory and government financing hurdles only made worse by Japan.
Crane’s outlook for the industry comes after NRG in April decided to write down $481 million of its investment in two new nuclear units at the South Texas Project due to concerns about financial resources. However, The New York Times writes that the project…
was in considerable doubt even before the accident at Fukushima began on March 11. Texas has a surplus of electricity and low prices for natural gas, which sets the price of electricity on the market there.
Given current U.S. natural gas prices are low and that overall electricity demand is down from the depressed economy, it is not hard to understand why some, including Crane, take the “tails” side view. But, there are still others in the “heads” camp to balance the debate.

Take, for instance, an email I received just today from our friends at SCANA who are doing preconstruction work for the Summer 2 and 3 project in South Carolina.Bigge Crane Assembly
With about 1,000 workers on site, a significant amount of infrastructure work is complete, including water supply lines and a temporary drain system. All commercial buildings have been erected. This includes pipe shops, electrical shops, an engineering building, and warehouses.
Similar preconstruction activities continue to take place at Southern Co.’s Plant Vogtle site in Georgia. In May, I had the privilege of videotaping a short interview with then-CEO Jim Miller of Southern Company on whether or not he thought the industry would continue to move forward. His take:
We are going to continue constructing Vogtle 3 and 4 and other new plants in this country and move forward with this safe, clean, very reliable and low-cost source of electricity for our customers and for our country.
I guess only time will tell who will win the debate, but I’m hoping for heads.

Photo credits from SCANA: Assembly of the heavy lift derrick, or the Bigge Crane, is well under way. Known as the world’s biggest crane, its boom is 560 feet.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.


Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?