The Nuclear Paradigm Shift: Globally and in the United States

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Just a few decades ago, nuclear was a dirty word. And it’s no wonder with accidents like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island causing most to shudder at the thought of a nuclear reactor in their backyard. But things have changed and with nuclear power becoming an increasingly viable alternative to fossil fuels, nuclear power is on the rise again.

Just a few decades ago, nuclear was a dirty word. And it’s no wonder with accidents like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island causing most to shudder at the thought of a nuclear reactor in their backyard. But things have changed and with nuclear power becoming an increasingly viable alternative to fossil fuels, nuclear power is on the rise again.

Case in point, 349 new nuclear reactors under construction, planned, or proposed throughout the world today. Even more astounding, just consider: 1

— France currently received over 80% of its power from nuclear and even sells off extra capacity to neighboring countries.
— China is planning on increasing nuclear capacity five-fold by 2020.
— India hopes to build 20 to 30 new reactors by 2020.
— By 2050, the world will see an almost 50% increase in population, meaning even more power will be required.
— According to the International Energy Agency, current global coal reserves (the largest source of power today) will run out in 155 years.
— With oil nearing $100 a barrel, the Peak Oil Theory is seemingly more than just a hypothetical scenario and by 2013, the world could see dramatically higher prices. 2

With nuclear proponents, like Al Gore, speaking about nuclear’s carbon-free energy benefits, it’s no wonder a paradigm shift has already begun. Case in point, in 2006, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the first license for a major commercial nuclear facility in 30 years.

What’s more, the NRC has received applications for 30-new nuclear plants in America. Moreover, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, on December 20, 2007,“The U.S. Congress yesterday passed an appropriations bill (H.R. 2764) that provides significant funding for various nuclear energy programs totaling more than $970 million.”

Much of the recent acceptance by policy-makers in the United States comes from The Nuclear Power 2010 program, brought forward in 2002. The program, “…is a joint government/industry cost-shared effort to identify sites for new nuclear power plants, develop and bring to market advanced nuclear plant technologies, evaluate the business case for building new nuclear power plants, and demonstrate untested regulatory processes.” 3

In addition to the Nuclear Power 2010 program, Congress has also passed the “Energy Policy Act of 2005 (H.R. 6), which incorporates a wide range of measures that support today’s operating nuclear plants and provides important incentives for building new nuclear plants.” 4

And, The Energy Policy Act of 2005, “includes several incentives to encourage construction of new nuclear plants, including production tax credits, loan guarantees and risk protection for companies pursuing the first new reactors.”

Clearly, the United States sees that nuclear energy is an outstanding alternative to fossil fuels to not only help the country sustain growth in the years to come, but to also take steps towards energy-independence.

Bottom line, nuclear power is surging, because the world MUST find alternatives to fossil fuels for both economic and environmental reasons…something policy makers are already aware.

1 The Nuclear Renaissance, Briefing Paper # 104. May 2007 Uranium Information Centre.
2 Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas
3 US Department of Energy. Nuclear Power 2010
4 Nuclear Energy Institute: Highlights of Nuclear Energy Provisions in Energy Policy Act of 2005.

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