Saturday, March 12, 2011

The End of the Nuclear "Renaissance" is Now

I am a big supporter of nuclear power but have written numerous posts on the financial, regulatory and legal issues that make the "nuclear renaissance" in the United States an illusion that could be deflated by the simplest of journalistic research.

One issue that I have touched on is "contagion" which basically means that the entire nuclear industry can be sent into a deep freeze by a single event hitting any nuclear plant anywhere around the globe. Mention "Three Mile Island" (which effectively halted new reactor construction in the US) or "Chernobyl" (which put a bullet in most reactors in the Western world) and you can see how a single event can dramatically impact the entire industry.

With this single photo that I got from the BBC site here (I usually don't put up other people's photos but in this case the image will soon be so iconic I think it was appropriate) now you can see the end of the Nuclear Renaissance in the United States.

That photo or some variant will be everywhere... the risk of a catastrophic event at a nuclear plant (even though the Japanese seem to be handling it well so far, all things considered) will be played up continuously, which will be more fodder for protests and will make financial executives think that much harder before committing all their company's capital to such an uncertain venture as building a nuclear plant in the litigious USA.

The inflection point of a major event is rarely so obvious as this. I guess the real issue is whether this is even an inflection point anyways, since nuclear activity in terms of new construction in the US was confined to a couple of units in Georgia, a couple in Texas, and one in South Carolina anyways. We'd be lucky if out of these 5 units even 3 saw the light of day and were commissioned (remember that even if built protesters can shut it down - see what happened to Shoreham in Long Island). As for new ones beyond these, it goes from unlikely to remote.

All natural gas from here on out.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz


Dan from Madison said...

I agree with you. Nuke was always a pipe dream even though a couple politicians were starting to talk about it. This should at least get us from wasting our time talking about nukes anymore and hopefully get us busy on ng plants and pipelines since I own a sh!tload of those companies and relateds $$$ :).

Carl from Chicago said...

If you are interested there is a good comment thread on this at Chicago Boyz.

One item that confuses me is when I point out a situation like this some commenters think that I ought to come up with a "solution" to the issue, as well. For example - how COULD we get nuclear power (new units getting built) on track in the US?

Frankly I don't know. I only know that we are screwed. I think it is enough to be the only lone wolf out there calling the facts as they are, not as they might seem to be.

Dan from Madison said...

I intentionally put my comment here rather than there, I didn't understand where some of those people were coming from. Do they expect you to sh1t a nuke?