The stars would seem to be aligned for a renaissance of nuclear power in the United States. Fossil-fuel prices are historically high, political uncertainty plagues the Middle East, Russia, and other oil-producing regions, new reactor technology looks promising, and President Bush is promoting nuclear among the alternatives for electric power. Indeed, opinion polls suggest the public has an increasingly positive attitude towards nuclear power.
But the next surge of nuclear construction will not gain momentum unless two things occur. The first is to resolve the problem of long-term disposal of spent nuclear fuel waste storage by completing the Yucca Mountain repository. The second is to find an executive in the industry who will step up and champion nuclear power, as Lee Iacocca did for the ailing U.S. auto manufacturing industry during the late 1970s.
Cart Before the Horse
Nuclear reactor technology has made a lot of progress in recent years, and the next generation of technology, such as the Westinghouse AP1000, whose design was recently certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), promises to be safer and more reliable than previous designs. It’s likely that a consortium of utilities will ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license, and several other utilities are considering filing for licenses.