The Tantalizing Nuclear Mirage. Many see nuclear power as a necessary part of any carbon-neutral mix. The reality isn’t so simple. DESPITE THE NEWFOUND exigency of overhauling the country’s energy mix, this is not the first time America’s energy system has arrived at a crossroads in the last ten years, nor is it the first time nuclear has been trotted out as its last, best hope. In the late aughts, with oil prices soaring and production stagnant, policymakers made a commitment to expanding American nuclear generation. An era of so-called “nuclear renaissance” began, with four next-generation reactors commissioned at two plants, one in Georgia and the other in South Carolina. Now, over a decade later, that project managed to bankrupt its construction company, Westinghouse, nearly taking down the entire Toshiba conglomerate, Westinghouse’s parent company, with it. The two reactors in South Carolina were abandoned, while the Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power utility companies assumed control of the remaining two reactors in Georgia, the Vogtle 3 and 4. But even a cash infusion from Georgia ratepayers, who began subsidizing the completion of the project in 2011, was not enough to keep the project close to its budget or timeline. Initially expected to come online in 2016-2017, the Vogtle plant has run some $14 billion over budget. Its completion dates have been deferred to 2021-2022. There’s currently no other active nuclear development in the United States.
Prospect 5th Dec 2019 read more »