The real reason nuclear power is threatened

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The Nov. 10 article concerning nuclear power (“Natural Gas Could Spell Doom for Nuke Power”) did not touch on one of the most significant factors stunting the growth of nuclear power in the United States ... deregulation. The deregulation movement has produced success stories (railroads), questionable outcomes (fewer airlines and destinations), and failures, electric generation being a glaring example.

Before deregulation, utilities would forecast electricity usage and determine future generating capacity needed to meet that demand. State public utility commissions would evaluate the forecasts, phasing in rate increases that allowed utilities to undertake these capital intensive projects with the certainty that they would receive funds sufficient to cover the cost of construction.

Since deregulation, no publicly traded electric utility executive in his right mind would ever undertake a $10 billion project knowing that it will not generate one cent in revenue for the 10 years it will take to complete.

Furthermore, as stated in the article, the current low price of clean burning natural gas, coupled with the speed with which these plants can be put on line precludes the construction of any sizable base load plants in the near future. Scarier still is the prospect of closing viable nuclear plants because the electricity they generate is currently slightly more expensive than electricity produced by natural gas.

Unfortunately, this is consistent with contemporary management philosophy which focuses on the “here and now” with no regard for the future. In any case, the natural gas “glut” has not resulted in lower electric bills.

Unfortunately, at some point natural gas supplies will begin to dwindle, a situation that will be hastened by the inevitable increases in exports that are even now in the making. Then we will all face significant increases in energy prices as we scramble to find a replacement for natural gas generation.

In the ’70s the French decided to commit to a long-term solution for their energy needs. Nuclear now generates 80 percent of their electricity, and they reprocess spent fuel to maximize fuel economy while minimizing radioactive waste, which is vitrified (turned to glass) for long-term stability.

Interestingly, the U.S. developed the fuel reprocessing technology the French utilize, and the first plant in their first standardized series of plants is referred to as “The Beaver Valley Prototype.” Only in the U.S. could we find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory... being defined in this case as clean, efficient electricity capable of meeting our needs now and into the future.

GEORGE DUDASH III
Kennedy


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