India And China Learn To Love Nuclear Power As America Falls Behind

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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As American reactors continue to age, India is accelerating its shift towards nuclear power by building several nuclear power plants in the country’s northern region, according to comments by a government official Wednesday.

China and India are both preparing to build new nuclear reactors and have rapidly growing nuclear programs, while America’s new reactors have been seriously delayed due to regulatory issues and economics.

“We have also made headway in bringing nuclear programme to North India,” Jitendra Singh, India’s minister of state, to the newspaper Indian Express. “Last one year, we have started a plant in Gorakhpur in Haryana. We are also exploring the possibility of Bhiwandi in Haryana, Patiala in Punjab, Bulandsahar in Uttar Pradesh and Dehradun in Uttarakhand. And therefore, we are on a very fast track, not only in expanding but also facilitating it.”

India has a rapidly growing nuclear power program and the country plans to get 25 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors by 2050. America could get less than 10 percent of its electricity from nuclear by 2050, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

China, and other developing countries, are also planning to build new nuclear plants. China plans to have 150 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2030, according to the World Nuclear Association. A single gigawatt of power provides enough energy for roughly 700,000 homes.

The average age for American nuclear reactors is 35, nearly obsolete by modern design standards and near the end of 40-year operating licenses. Sixteen American nuclear reactors are more than 42 years old, according to government data compiled and mapped last week by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Instead of building new modern reactors, the government is planning to simply extend the operating licenses, against the advice of its own technical staff, because it is bureaucratically simpler.

“Many in the [nuclear] industry hope that extending the licenses of existing reactors will forestall at least some closings. Nuclear plants were originally licensed for 40 years, but almost all have sought and received 20-year extensions,” The New York Times reported in March.

While a renaissance in new American nuclear reactor construction has been said to be imminent for some time, projects have been delayed or scrapped as a result of an abundance of low-cost natural gas and regulatory issues.

Getting regulatory approval to build new reactors can take up to 25 years, while a reactor can be built in merely 10. It took an incredible 43 years to get approval to build America’s newest nuclear reactor due to scandals, red tape and environmental concerns.

Of the 59 new nuclear reactors under construction worldwide, only four of them are being built in the U.S., just enough to compensate for shutting down older reactors.

Nuclear power provided 19 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. in 2014, according to the Energy Information Administration.

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