Let's Have Some Love for Nuclear Power

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If nuclear energy is to progress, it must stand on its own. That means Wall Street has to invest. And convincing Wall Street to invest means persuading the public that there is nothing unacceptably dangerous or diabolical about nuclear power.

All over the world, nuclear power is making a comeback. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just commissioned eight new reactors, and says there's "no upper limit" to the number Britain will build in the future. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has challenged her country's program to phase out 17 nuclear reactors by 2020, saying it will be impossible to deal with climate change without them. China and India are building nuclear power plants; France and Russia, both of whom have embraced the technology, are fiercely competing to sell them the hardware...

While we may be at a turning point, one enormous question still hangs over this revival of nuclear power in the U.S.: Who is going to pay for it? The construction of reactors in the rest of the world is essentially a government enterprise. Private investment and even public approval are not always necessary. In the U.S., however, the capital will have to be raised from Wall Street. But not many investors are willing to put up $5 billion to $10 billion for a project that could become engulfed by 10 to 15 years of regulatory delay -- as occurred during the 1980s. The Seabrook plant in New Hampshire went through 14 years of that before opening in 1990. The Long Island Lighting Company's Shoreham plant began in 1973, but was shut down by protests in 1989 without generating a watt of electricity, and the company went bankrupt as a result...

If nuclear energy is to progress, it must stand on its own. That means Wall Street has to invest. And convincing Wall Street to invest means persuading the public that there is nothing unacceptably dangerous or diabolical about nuclear power.

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