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America's Nuclear Ambition

By       Message Craig Harrington     Permalink
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Earlier this decade many Americans began to change their minds about nuclear power. For more than 20 years nuclear plants were a social pariah; they were charged with being unclean, unsafe, and unfit for mass adoption around the United States.

In the 1960s the Atomic Energy Commission projected that the U.S. would have perhaps 1,000 active reactors by the year 2000. As animosity grew in the wake of the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl incidents and that number dwindled. After a thirty-year building freeze the U.S. now boasts just 104 active reactors, and perhaps 120 or more reactor projects have either been postponed or canceled. An additional 28 reactor systems have been shut down and decommissioned.

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Nonetheless these reactors, as of 2008, are still capable of providing nearly 20 percent of the total electrical consumption of the United States. Despite drawing just http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pages/sec9.pdf">19.6 percent of its power from these stations, the U.S. is the world's leading producer of nuclear power.

In the past several years, amid rising oil prices and increasing environmental fears, nuclear power became a fashionable and popular concept once again. In July 2007 click here=2007073114">Fortune Magazine ran an expose' on the building momentum for nuclear energy. Senator John McCain based his entire energy platform on the idea of building many more reactors around the U.S. President Barack Obama has even been lukewarm on the idea of nuclear power.

Unfortunately, after the economic crash of 2008 funding for prospective projects dried up. If we hope to capture next-generation nuclear options to power our energy independence, we will likely need the help and support of the government.

According to click here=2009110211">CNNMoney.com, there are active plans to build new reactors around the country. Plans are in place, public support is on the rise, but government funding will be necessary to make these projects a reality. NRG Energy hopes to build two new reactors -- which could power perhaps 4 million homes -- at its existing facilities on Texas' Gulf Coast at a cost of $10 billion. Acquiring that much private capital may be impossible, but when compared to the enormity of the various government bailouts the price-tag is a drop in the bucket.

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If the administration and Congress ever change their stance on nuclear power, and embrace the possibilities presented by fission reactors the United States could become truly energy independent. For example, building 100 new reactors could cost the government perhaps $400-500 billion and require perhaps a decade to complete. The construction would create tens of thousands of temporary and permanent jobs while also out-pacing the growth of America's energy needs. We could begin shutting down pollution-sodden coal plants and replacing them with nuclear facilities. We could completely off-set the increased electrical demand driven by an all-electric vehicle fleet by creating clean and safe nuclear plants which produce steady supply 24-hours per day.

Nuclear energy isn't the only option, and it is certainly not the least expensive; but embracing a nuclear future may be inevitable and necessary. Doing so would make the U.S. a world-leader in nuclear innovation, perhaps allowing this nation to create the first http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/06/nuclear_fusion/">commercially viable fusion reactors which could power the nation into the next century. No solution is perfect, and nuclear power has its own particular risks, but the time has come to stop the malaise and give serious consideration to a nuclear future.


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http://www.economyincrisis.org/
Craig Harrington is pursuing a degree in History and Political Science at The Ohio State University. He is also a journalist for EconomyInCrisis.org.

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