Interim steps toward solving America’s spent-fuel dilemma.
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.
According to a telephone survey commissioned by the National Council on Competition and the Electric Industry, consumers are happy with their electric suppliers, but want the companies to improve their environmental records.
Many of the 1,307 adults surveyed also would like to see electricity prices improved. Two-thirds, in fact, think prices are too high.
Nearly all consumers (96 percent) feel it's important that electric companies be environmentally responsible. Some 92 percent say that preserving the environment is important, even if it costs more.
POLITICS WON OVER PURPOSE AS AN EARLY VOTE on a nuclear waste bill in the U.S. Senate was itself laid to waste, apparently victim of a contested Senate seat in the state where spent fuel would be stored.
The June 2 vote would have limited debate on H.R. 1270. By getting a vote count, the leanings of senators on the bill would have been tested. And the way would have been paved for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to schedule a second, more formal vote on the measure.
That's how fast the money pours in to the nation's Nuclear Waste Disposal Fund, one mill at a time. And the money is attracting attention, especially during this election year, with Congress running out of time before its planned August recess.
"Today has been extremely rich in terms of rumors," said Mike McCarthy, administrator of the Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition, when I talked with him on June 28.
"The leadership in the House and Senate have met. People seem to be adjusting their schedules.
Nuclear plant licensees could face an added level of state regulation just as they move to cut costs.Permanent disposal capacity for low-level radioactive waste (LLW) and spent nuclear fuel, long a top priority for the nuclear industry, has not yet become a reality. But the storage question draws more attention for its impact on nuclear power costs as electric generation grows more competitive.