U.S. nuclear industry set to build again

Construction under way in – Bulgaria

After three decades without starting a single new plant, the American nuclear power industry is getting ready to build again…

But now, 21 companies are seeking permission to build 34 new power plants across the United States, from New York to Texas. Factories are springing up in Indiana and Louisiana to build reactor parts.

The trend echoes what is under way in Britain and parts of Eastern Europe, where concerns about climate change are beginning to outweigh those about the risks of nuclear accidents. Unlike most sources of power, nuclear plants do not emit the gases that cause global warming, once they have been built.

Other countries, like France, Japan and China, have been building nuclear plants for a long time

The change of fortunes for the nuclear industry in the United States has come so fast that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington has had to hire hundreds of new engineers to handle the sudden increase in applications.

It is still unclear how many of the 34 proposed plants will actually start operating one day, and how many billions of dollars they might cost. It is uncertain if financing can be found in today’s troubled credit markets, and how the overall cost might compare with those of other power sources. But experts who follow the power industry increasingly think that it is likely that at least some of the plants will produce nuclear energy one day.

The only surprise – I guess – is that the United States finally removed it’s political head from the sand and looked around and saw, Voila!, other nations are progressing with less costly, more reliable, less polluting electricity.

I never expect American politicians to pay more attention to engineers than pundits; so, I guess this is just a momentary lapse in the plan. Public pressure to do something-or-other must have penetrated. And there’s always the opportunity to revive the sort of corporate welfare state that was predominant in the earlier boom in nuclear electricity.

Back in the day, I worked for a major vendor within the nuclear infrastructure. We knew how to bid competitively; but, we didn’t have to. We knew how to build safe components and – I’m glad to say – we always did. But, there never was a need to cut corners with the amount of money poured into every aspect of the industry. It took some serious greed and carelessness to build crap.

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