Of the 59 new nuclear reactors under construction worldwide to help meet increasing demand for electricity, only 4 of them are being built in the United States, just enough to compensate for shutting down older reactors.
World-installed nuclear capacity is expected to grow 60 percent by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency, while American capacity will likely only grow by 16 percent over the same time period.
Chinese nuclear capacity is expected to increase by 46 percent by 2030, while American nuclear power will be fairly stagnant with only a small increase in nuclear capacity scheduled. Four new nuclear reactors are expected to enter service by the end of the decade, but that will barely offset those reactors leaving service due to cheap natural gas, which has driven American power prices lower than nuclear plants’ operating costs.
Even nuclear power in Iran, where the Obama administration is helping the regime modernize a reactor, is growing faster than the American nuclear industry.
The FitzPatrick nuclear plant in New York is scheduled to shut down as soon as 2016 due to concerns about profitability. Other plants such Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts and Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey are also scheduled to shut down due to financial concerns. Two other reactors, the Vermont Yankee reactor and Wisconsin’s reactor, have already been closed due to competition from cheap natural gas. The world’s largest nuclear plant operator, Électricité de France, withdrew from a joint venture that would have created three new American nuclear plants–after it had already invested billions of dollars.
U.S. regulators recently gave the go-ahead for the country’s first new nuclear reactor in 20 years to begin commercial operations, producing nearly 2,300 megawatts of electricity–enough to power 1.3 million homes. However, approval for the construction of this reactor took an incredible 43 years due to scandals, red-tape, and environmental concerns.
Modern nuclear reactor designs are much safer, and actually emit less radiation than coal plants. Recent breakthroughs in fusion could also potentially restart the atomic age, when nuclear progress was lauded as a pinnacle of human achievement.
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