• 3 minutes Could Venezuela become a net oil importer?
  • 7 minutes Reuters: OPEC Ministers Agree In Principle On 1 Million Barrels Per Day Nominal Output Increase
  • 12 minutes Battle for Oil Port: East Libya Forces In Full Control At Ras Lanuf
  • 6 hours Could Venezuela become a net oil importer?
  • 44 mins Reuters: OPEC Ministers Agree In Principle On 1 Million Barrels Per Day Nominal Output Increase
  • 10 hours Tesla Closing a Dozen Solar Facilities in Nine States
  • 15 hours Saudi Arabia plans to physically cut off Qatar by moat, nuclear waste and military base
  • 10 hours Why is permian oil "locked in" when refineries abound?
  • 6 hours Gazprom Exports to EU Hit Record
  • 54 mins Oil prices going down
  • 6 hours Oil Buyers Club
  • 6 hours Could oil demand collapse rapidly? Yup, sure could.
  • 8 hours EU Leaders Set To Prolong Russia Sanctions Again
  • 4 hours Saudi Arabia turns to solar
  • 1 day Teapots Cut U.S. Oil Shipments
  • 9 hours EVs Could Help Coal Demand
  • 23 hours Battle for Oil Port: East Libya Forces In Full Control At Ras Lanuf
  • 1 day Hot line, Macron: Phone Calls With Trump Are Like Sausages Best Not To Know What Is Inside
  • 16 hours China’s Plastic Waste Ban Will Leave 111 Million Tons of Trash With Nowhere To Go
Alt Text

Will Humanity Ever Harness Star Power?

Though speculators suggest that commercially…

Alt Text

Is This The Newest Nuclear Player In The Middle East?

Oman’s sovereign wealth fund just…

Alt Text

Are Higher Uranium Prices Around The Corner?

The world’s largest uranium producer…

Llewellyn King

Llewellyn King

Llewellyn King is the executive producer and host of "White House Chronicle" on PBS. His e-mail address is lking@kingpublishing.com

More Info

Trending Discussions

Natgas Boom Undermining U.S. Nuclear Future

Natgas Boom Undermining U.S. Nuclear Future

America's nuclear power industry should be luxuriating in its extraordinary safety record and the fact that it is a carbon-free way to make electricity.

But all is not well in atom land. In fact, things are dismal. Only five nuclear plants are under construction, and they are having birth pains as schedules slip and costs rise.

One plant, Vermont Yankee, has been taken out of service and others are on a watch list. This is happening not because of safety or end-of-life, but because cheap natural gas is undermining the economics of nuclear.

The market has spoken and it has determined that gas is cheaper in the short term, and wind and solar, though limited, enjoy social acceptability and declining costs.

The mighty Exelon Corporation is trying to save three, and maybe more, of its nuclear plants with a political fix; arguing that nuclear is a value proposition – its value to the community will continue long after the gas boom has fizzled. It is an argument that might have been made to save commuter railroads in the heyday of the automobile. Related: The Inconvenient Truth About A Green Revolution

But that is not all that challenges nuclear. Despite its environmental advantages in a time of climate change, the public has been steadily turning against nuclear, persuaded by a relentless campaign that has been waged by opponents like the Union of Concerned Scientists and Natural Resources Defense Council and by Japan’s Fukushima accident following an earthquake and a tsunami. Wrongly, it is believed this resulted in lives lost: Many lives were lost to flooding, but not to radioactivity release.

But the public has absorbed a fear of nuclear, unless it is associated with the navy. That was reflected this month, when a Gallup poll revealed that only 51 percent now support nuclear, as opposed to a traditional divide of 60 percent for and 40 percent against. It is hopeless to expect a big swing to nuclear with this kind of public sentiment. The current slim majority favoring nuclear falls far short of a call for action.

Moreover, the nuclear industry has had its fair share of bad news of which does nothing to help the public love the atom. Related: Top 5 Richest Tycoons In Renewable Energy

The San Onofre plant in California was closed down because new steam generators were defective, and the owners decided it was not worth the hundreds of millions it would cost to fix things. Cost overruns and delays, once blamed on environmental opposition, now are almost always a result of problems in the construction.

Much hope has rested on two new reactors being built by the Southern Company in Georgia. Known as Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4, there are delays and cost overruns and the utility is in court with the prime contractor, the eponymous Westinghouse Electric Company. Although the Southern Company is determined to complete the reactors and under its feisty chairman, Tom Fanning, possibly to build more, the costs are rising.

Just a few months ago, there was hope that new reactors -- smaller mass-produced power plants -- were in the pipeline. But now the industry is convinced the next reactor design will have to be developed outside of the United States; probably in Asia, where both China and India are working on radical new reactors, far from today’s light water plants -- 100 of them -- operating in the United States. Related: Japan May Not Restart Nuclear Reactors After All

The U.S. challenge is not science or engineering – we have designs aplenty and great nuclear science – but regulation. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) – which protects public health and safety -- is not equipped to license a new reactor, and it is believed that a new reactor type would have to spawn a whole new regulatory bureaucracy. One aspirant with a new nuclear design says ruefully, “It’s as though the FAA had recertified every aspect of flying when the jet engine came along.”

The NRC, even its staff admits, is slow and ponderous. What they don’t admit is that the commission is not only protecting the public, by making sure that today’s reactors are safe, but it’s also preventing the public from having better nuclear power in the future.

For the industry the problem is not only the time it would take to bring a new reactor through licensing, but also the cost. The applicant, not the government, pays for the NRC to license a reactor. Some say that cost could run towards a billion dollars.

Considering this situation, U.S. leadership in reactor technology is doomed.

By Llewellyn King for Oilprice.com

More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:




Back to homepage

Trending Discussions


Leave a comment
  • Anna on April 22 2015 said:
    Mr. King,

    Nuclear energy is NOT carbon free.

    Nuclear power plants emit 90 – 140 g of CO2 per kwh.

    PLUS, nuclear power plants release massive amounts of CARBON-14 which is converted to CO2 in the atmosphere!

    Conclusion: Nuclear energy releases huge amounts of carbon.

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News