The Global Winners of a US Nuclear Power Renaissance

bridges vol. 13, April 2007 / OpEds & Commentaries

by Paul Guinnessy

guinnessy_paul1.jpgPaul Guinnessy

The biggest winners in the plans to build new nuclear reactors in the US may not be the domestic nuclear industry, which dwindled in the intervening years when few or no reactors were ordered. Instead European-based Areva, and three Japanese companies, Toshiba, Hitachi, and Mitsubishi, may reap the most benefits.

The industry currently provides 19 percent of the US electricity needs through 103 aging plants. Most of these plants have been upgraded, to keep them operating more efficiently at higher temperatures and to extend their life expectancy from 25 to at least 40 years. But soon some of these plants will have to be decommissioned and, to keep nuclear energy production at the same usage level or higher, new plants will have to be built to replace them. No new US plants have been built since the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident.

Today, the economics of building and running reactors has improved. Old reactors have long paid off their capitalization costs, leaving fuel, waste storage, and security as their three main costs. Moreover, just as in Europe, nuclear is becoming competitive with oil and gas because of the expectation that climate-change carbon taxes or credits will be put on fossil fuels. The US also has a new interest in energy security, in light of events in the Middle East and Russia.

Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.