The Nuclear Reactor Is Back

November 08 [Tue], 2011, 16:32
The United States has not built a nuclear power plant or reactor since the 1970s. It seems odd that new forms of most advanced form of energy available have not been utilized in almost four decades. After all, we continue to use existing plants, so it can be all that bad, right? Political factors, NIMBY, a near disaster, and - of all things - a movie managed to grind this industry to a halt. However, new needs and a changing political climate have led to a shift in the wind. Nuclear power is coming back and will be back in the forefront sooner than later.

What stopped new construction of nuclear power plants and reactors in the first place? First, nuclear power has always been an iffy political proposition. The dangers of radioactive waste make it extremely unpopular with environmentalists. Also, even supporters of nuclear power have taken a strong NIMBY (not in my back yard) approach regarding it. They want the power and the advantages that it provides, just so long as the plant is located as far away as possible. Eventually, every area takes this stance to the point that it becomes impossible to build anywhere. Another factor that shut down nuclear power construction in the 1970s was the near disaster at Three Mile Island. While this was a far cry from Chernobyl, things almost got too far out hand. This combined with the coincidental release of The China Syndrome, a movie starring Jane Fonda and Michael Douglass that dealt with the potential dangers of nuclear power. Together, these factors made new sites for nuclear power very unpopular in most areas with enough voters that it became impossible to find new sites.


However, times have changed. The general public has an extreme need for more power sources. When the need is great enough, nuclear reactors look like a better option. Blackouts in California in the past five years showed how reliant the nation's infrastructure is on reliable electrical output. With regards to environmentalists, the fact of the matter is that every form of mass power production is unpopular with most of them. Coal results in air pollution, hydroelectric plants destroy forests and entire ecosystems, windmill farms are deemed an eyesore by many and they have questionable efficiencies, oil is dirty and puts the nation under the thumb of Middle Eastern sheiks, etc. At the end of the day, it is all about balancing the pros and the cons. As for The China Syndrome, Three Mile Island, and even Chernobyl, these are all becoming distant memories of a completely different time. Nuclear power has been safe (in terms of results) all over the world for three decades now. The biggest fear is now external, as in what effects a terrorist attack would have on the facilities. People are tending to feel relatively safe about the facilities themselves.


The last deterrent to nuclear reactors is still the biggest - NIMBY. This is still a strong mentality, but what has relaxed it a bit is the down economy. New power plants mean lower energy costs and more jobs. When people are suffering, their political and personal beliefs regarding a specific topic tend to start moving up or down a sliding scale. There are also government incentives being offered to areas that are willing to take on the construction.


The first two new reactors are scheduled to begin construction within the next year - assuming that this does not meet further political resistance down the road, which is a definite possibility given this form of energy's history. A number of other areas across the country will be willing to take on this construction and the government subsidies that go with it should this project fall through. Regardless, nuclear power will be making a very strong return to this country very soon. It is hard to imagine any kind of an energy future for this nation that does not involve nuclear power in some way, shape, or form.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


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