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A New Look at Nukes:  Energy firms push to build reactors as natural gas prices soar
By James M. Pethokoukis  9/26/2005

It's probably a bit early for the executives at Entergy to look at the bright side of Hurricane Katrina. After all, the New Orleans-based power company is still working feverishly to restore power to hundreds of thousands of its customers in the storm-ravaged region. But there is some good news out there, such as the lack of damage to its Waterford nuclear plant in St. Charles Parish, about 30 miles east of the Crescent City. The impending arrival of Katrina forced Entergy to declare a precautionary "unusual event" and shut down the reactor. The company got word from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission two weeks later that it was free to fire Waterford back up.

But the ultimate impact of Katrina on the nuclear power industry is likely to be far more extensive than a brief shutdown in a single reactor. Damage to natural gas facilities on the Gulf Coast sent high natural gas prices even higher, and a second straight year of double-digit price increases is likely for most regions in the country. And even before Katrina, the rising cost of natural gas--plus concerns about increased regulation of greenhouse gas emissions-- was making energy executives take a fresh look at building new nuclear plants to meet the nation's growing thirst for energy. "This country will need more nuclear plants, and it's going to need a bunch of them," says John Rowe, CEO of Chicago-based Exelon, owner of 17 nuclear plants in Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Rowe adds that over the next 25 years the portion of the nation's electricity generated by nuclear power could grow to 30 or 40 percent, up from the 20 percent generated today by 104 reactors. That could mean dozens of new nuclear power plants.

The last reactor to come on line in the United States was the Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar reactor  in May 1996--after 24 years of construction during which the Three Mile Island accident, increasing government regulation, cost overruns, environmental protests, and the Chernobyl disaster helped put the industry into suspended animation. But this week, a consortium of nuclear power companies called NuStart Energy Development - including Exelon and Entergy - will announce which locations it has chosen as part of the group's applications to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the construction of and operating licenses for a new commercial reactor. New reactors could be powering up within a decade.

The federal government has been plenty eager to kick-start the moribund industry. Just last month, President Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which contains guarantees and incentives including $2 billion to cover possible delays at as many as six new nuclear plants and annual production tax credits. More important, perhaps, Congress extended the five-decade-old Price-Anderson Act through 2025, limiting operator liability in the event of an accident. The new legislative action follows Bush's Nuclear Power 2010 initiative, launched in 2002, which promoted public-private partnerships to spur new reactor construction.

Yet all these government nudges might be going for naught were it not for the rising price of natural gas, which has more than tripled since 1999. At present, natural gas accounts for about 17 percent of U.S. electrical generation, behind coal (51 percent) and nuclear (20 percent). But those numbers understate the growing importance of natural gas in the nation's power supply. An estimated 90 percent of power plants under construction are fired by natural gas, according to the Natural Gas Supply Association.  Gas-fired plants are cheaper and faster to build than coal facilities, and they produce lower emissions. But with costs soaring, nuclear has been looking more economically attractive. "Natural gas prices drive electric prices in the whole nation, and they don't look like they are going down anytime soon," says Dan Keuter, Entergy's head of nuclear business development.

Deliberate speed. Yet it's tough to find executives willing to publicly commit to building a new reactor as soon as possible, even those who are part of the NuStart consortium. "What we have said is that we want to have the option to have one on line by 2015," says Lou Long, technical support chief for the nuclear subsidiary of Southern Co., which operates nuclear plants in Alabama and Georgia. "When you have to invest 3 or 4 billion dollars, you want to delay as long as possible." Even Entergy's Keuter, who describes his company as "leading the pack" in getting a new reactor built, says it will take until 2010 to get all the necessary federal approvals, and then "we'll see what market conditions are and what money the feds have appropriated." If things look like a go, it will still be another four or five years before a reactor is operating.

Wall Street is worried about protests. If a company moves to build a new reactor, investors fear that environmental groups will quickly launch an aggressive campaign against it. "With nuclear, the main opposition point is going to be the disposal of nuclear fuel," says Paul Fremont, an analyst at Jeffries & Co. "I would guess that politics on nuclear will get very ugly." At the center of the waste dispute is the federal government's controversial plan to transport spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste across the country and permanently store it at its repository in Yucca Mountain, Nev.  Exelon's Rowe says the waste disposal issue, which is still before regulators and the courts, must pass what he calls the "cocktail test." "Unless I can tell a neighbor where the nuclear fuel is going to go," he says, "I am reluctant to build a new generation of nuclear plants."

Yet, ironically, environmental concerns may also help nuclear companies get new reactors approved. Nuclear plants produce no greenhouse gases, which many scientists believe are warming the lower atmosphere. "I definitely think of nuclear power as a hedge against concerns about global warming and possible carbon restrictions," says Keuter. "I don't have a crystal ball, but two things I know for sure are that oil and gas are only going to get more expensive and environmental regulations are only going to get stricter and stricter--and neither is very positive."

One possible regulatory outcome is a "carbon tax" on energy sources that emit carbon dioxide, like coal, oil, and natural gas. Indeed, some nuclear executives raise the possibility of a "grand compromise" between environmentalists and the nuclear industry where, in exchange for perhaps a carbon tax, the environmental groups would drop their opposition to nuclear power.

Some environmentalists say nuclear power may have a place in the nation's future energy mix. "Climate change has a chance of overwhelming a lot of other systems, and we have to be open to every low-carbon approach," says Steve Cochran, director of strategic communications at Environmental Defense. One test of the grand-compromise scenario came this summer when the U.S. Senate voted on a bill sponsored by Arizona Republican John McCain and Connecticut Democrat Joe Lieberman to curb carbon dioxide emissions. In 2003, the proposal was defeated by a 55-to-43 vote. This summer, the bill resurfaced with an amendment including subsidies for the nuclear power industry in an attempt to garner conservative support for limits on greenhouse gas emissions. But with the new pro-nuclear amendment, many green groups withdrew their support, as did several Democratic senators. The result: an even more lopsided 60-to-38 defeat. "This was a real practical test for the grand compromise, but it was a complete failure," Cochran says.

Still, any future nuclear protest might be undercut by a lack of public support. There's polling evidence that the average American is growing more accepting of nuclear power. A pre-Katrina poll last month by Rasmussen Reports found that 55 percent of those surveyed supported building new nuclear power plants vs. 24 percent against. If energy prices stay high, future chants of "no nukes" might someday be overwhelmed by shouts of "go nukes."


The article above seems to imply that nuclear energy is the only solution to the "oil problem" - but this is a deliberate obfuscation.  Be sure to read these articles of truth that say almost unlimited fossil energy has already been verified as existing within the continental United States in OIL-BEARING COAL and  OIL-BEARING SHALE.  Utilization of this resource will bring in "oil" at the equivalent price of about $35 a barrel.  It can provide all our needs, for the next 40 years at least, without further kowtowing to the America-hating Arabs, or paying any more ransom to the rabid dictators of South America.  More importantly, it helps reduce the threat of both nuclear accidents and nuclear terrorism.

This essay on so-called Global Warming will give you additional insight on important pros and cons of continued usage of fossil fuels.

Click these links to learn more about the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear disaster, and the monstrous genetic damage the residual radiation is visiting upon children born in the area.

10/04/2005: Progress Energy Florida  announces plans for a new nuke in Florida.

01/13/2006: The race is on for construction of up to 10 new nukes between Maryland and Mississippi.

Proliferation of nuclear energy is a complex subject, and the reader is advised to do further research on all the various aspects of its component parts.  Form your own opinion based on the best facts available, not the highly spun propaganda spoon fed by the media.  The worst thing one can do is to do nothing.  Hold your elected public officials fully accountable.

The purpose of this archive is not to steal, but rather to preserve.  I always give full credit to the original source and have no profit motive or incentive in presenting the above.   A link to the original post is included below.  The original content is unaltered and the original appearance differs [if at all] mostly in the welcome absence of pop-up windows and advertisements.  Many of the outside links in the original article have been preserved as have most images (space allowing).  Over the last few years the internet version of " Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" has become all too common.  This archive is intended to act only as a backup resource in the event the original disappears.  To jump to the original article,  Click here

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