America’s fleet of nuclear reactors is rapidly aging, posing a serious problem for the country, according to a Friday report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA.)
EIA’s report notes that nearly all nuclear plants in the U.S. started operating between 1970 and 1990. This means they’re aging fast and will need to renew their original 40-year operating licenses before 2050. Most of these reactors are only designed to function for a maximum of 60 years and the U.S. isn’t building new ones fast enough.
“The U.S. nuclear energy fleet and American global market leadership is clearly at cliff’s edge without new capacity given the current trajectory of premature plant closings and likely licensing-related plant retirements.,” David Blee, executive director of the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council (NIC), told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
EIA’s report estimates that 25 percent of currently operating U.S. nuclear electrical generating capacity will be forced to retire by 2050.
“We do not subscribe to the EIA’s doom and gloom base-case scenario with regard to no new capacity additions beyond the four under-construction VC Summer and Vogtle reactors,” Blee said. “With eight new reactor licenses either issued or in the queue at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC] and a spate of state-of-the-art, innovative small advanced reactors moving toward licensing, we believe new nuclear is positioning to meet the need for new capacity posed by retirements and electricity demand.”
Nuclear power currently accounts for about 20 percent of all electricity generated in the U.S. and the country generated more nuclear energy than any other. This, however, is changing fast.
China is building 20 new nuclear reactors while South Korea alone has five more under construction. Meanwhile, only four reactors are under construction in the U.S. That’s barely enough to replace older reactors going out of service. More than half of the world’s nuclear reactors under construction are in Asia with the majority of those in China, according to Seeker.
“Nonetheless, without bold action at every level to monetize the value of baseload electricity, level the playing field on energy incentives and modernize the nuclear regulatory labyrinth, nuclear energy’s future will continue to be challenging,” Blee said. “The status quo will certainly mean less clean energy, a less reliable electric grid and higher costs for consumers as well as lost U.S. jobs and exports as the America loses its longstanding nuclear energy leadership to Russia, and other sovereign competitors in the $2.6 trillion world market.”
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