No one needs to tell the readers of PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY about the technical, economic, regulatory, and institutional obstacle course facing the nuclear power industry. All you need do is look around to see an industry struggling to live up to expectations. Some would term the nuclear outlook "grim:"
• No economic incentives to build new nuclear plants.
• No new plant orders in the United States (a modest complement of foreign orders)
• Precious few attempts to renew operating licenses; even fewer succeed.
• Plant closures long before licenses expire; they won't be able to compete economically and still meet requirements imposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
• Infrastructure dries up for suppliers and skilled workers; American business writes off its entire nuclear enterprise as one big expensive failure.
These grim snapshots come from that widely cited, though fanciful think tank that goes by the name of C.W. and Associates (em specialists in what is more popularly known as the "Conventional Wisdom."
As an investment banker, I have come to know C.W. intimately. Ironically, however, that experience has taught me not to follow the crowd, but to think as a cautious contrarian.
During the 1980s I needed to make an important investment decision that depended on whether interest rates would continue climbing or drop. I was walking down Sixth Avenue when I passed a newsstand, and I caught a glimpse of the new issue of Time magazine. It had a big dollar sign on the cover, with the words, "Interest rates soar!"