NRC Approves First New Nuclear Reactors In Three Decades

Nuclear Cooling Towers - photo by Michael Kappel

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved two licenses for nuclear reactors to be build at the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia. This is the first time the NRC has approved licenses for new reactors since 1978, a year before the Three Mile Island accident.

Until recently I felt we needed to advance all forms of energy that do not produce greenhouse gases, and so I was for nuclear energy. But this was before the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011. It’s amazing how a current event can change one’s opinion. While I don’t know what the path is to get off fossil fuels, I have a hard time supporting nuclear power at this time. Unfortunately renewable sources like hydro-electric, geo-thermal, wind and solar only make up a small percentage of power production. I think these can be expanded but I think it’s unlikely these sources will be able to provide all our energy needs.

I’m happy to read that the new reactors use passive cooling.

the design’s passive cooling system makes it much safer than older designs. The AP 1000 uses gravity and condensation — not electricity — to cool the fuel rods.

This was a big problem at Fukushima because the cooling system required electricity. Passive cooling is a much safer option that will hopefully reduce the chances of a meltdown scenario like Japan.

One huge problem for nuclear power is what to do with the nuclear waste. Our country doesn’t have a solution to this problem. All nuclear waste produced at nuclear power plants is stored on site. Some of the older nuclear power plants are storing much more nuclear waste than they ever intended. It’s not clear if we are ever going to solve this problem because nobody wants to live anywhere near a nuclear waste storage facility.

Right now there are over two dozen applications in process for new nuclear reactors around the country. It appears the United States is back in the business of building nuclear power plants. Let’s hope we never see an accident like Fukushima.


photo by Michael Kappel

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#electricity#energy#Fukushima#Japan#meltdown#NRC#nuclear#nuclear power#nuclear reactor#Nuclear Regulatory Commission#Three Mile Islan