America’s Next Nuclear Reactor Took 8 YEARS To Get Past Gov’t Red Tape

Andrew Follett | Energy and Science Reporter

The federal government finally granted Duke Energy permission to build a new nuclear power after eight years of bureaucratic red tape.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) signed off on the plant Wednesday — a relatively quick turn around time compared to most power plants. NRC regulatory approval to build a new reactor can take up to 25 years, while building a new plant by itself only takes about 10 of those years. The new reactors will be built in Levy County, Fla.

The new plant wouldn’t currently be economical, but the company behind it is hoping the power market will change by the time it gets built. The Florida plant is right next to an older reactor which was closed down prematurely after a botched repair on the reactor vessel was deemed too expensive to fix.

Such red tape adds millions of dollars in costs and massive delays when it comes to building new U.S. nuclear reactors. U.S. nuclear plants spend an estimated $4.2 million each every year to meet government paperwork requirements and another $4.4 million to pay government-mandated security staff, according to an American Action Forum study. In addition to paperwork requirement costs, the average plant spends approximately $14 million on various government fees.

Cost isn’t the only factor that complicates nuclear power expansion. Heavy government regulations combined with policies intended to support wind and solar power make it incredibly difficult to profitably operate a nuclear power plant, according to an R Street Institute study. The NRC requires so much paperwork from the nuclear power providers that the average plant requires 86 full-time employees just to go through it all.

It took an incredible 43 years to get approval to build America’s newest nuclear reactor at Watt Barr in Tennessee, due to a combination of scandals, red tape and environmental concerns. Things at the NRC still move so slowly that it took nuclear regulators six months and three different attempts to give congressional overseers information they requested on the research budgets of projects.

Due to these delays, America isn’t building new reactors. The average age for American nuclear reactors is 35, making them nearly obsolete by modern design standards and near the end of their 40-year operating licenses. Sixteen American nuclear reactors are more than 42 years old, according to government data compiled and mapped in March by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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