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Overview of U.S. Nuclear Industry, What You Should Know

March 14, 2011

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Twenty three reactors in the U.S. use the same design parameters as Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Here is an overview of the nuclear industry in the United States including a list of plants and locations available for download. Let’s be clear, American citizens do not have a vote over whether these plants should be built. Authority resides in the NRC, Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Who Is NRC – Nuclear Regulatory Commission?
The NRC was established by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974. A summary and a text of this law, as well as other key laws that govern our operations, are provided below. The texts of other laws may be found in Nuclear Regulatory Legislation (NUREG-0980). Go here to view laws governing civilian uses of Nuclear Materials and Facilities (2)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is now reviewing 20 more license applications from a dozen companies seeking to produce nuclear power. Site preparations for new reactors have begun in Georgia and South Carolina, and plans are underway to finish a reactor that was started years ago but never completed in Tennessee. That reactor should come online in 2013 and those in South Carolina and Georgia are expected to begin operations in 2016. (1)

The U.S. currently has 104 nuclear plants in 31 states. Together, they produce 20% of the nation’s electricity. (1)

Peter Bradford, a former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, predicted Americans would respond to the Japanese disaster with “greatly heightened skepticism and heightened unwillingness to have nuclear power plants located in one’s own neighborhood.” (1)

He predicted as well greater regulatory scrutiny of existing nuclear plants that are seeking to extend their operating licenses, especially when those plants are located in seismically active zones, such as Southern California’s San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station and Diablo Canyon Power Plant. (1)

“The image of a nuclear power plant blowing up before your eyes on the television screen is a first,” Mr. Bradford said. “That cannot be good for an industry that’s looking for votes in Congress and in the state legislatures.” (1)

Within hours of the blast at the Japanese nuclear plant, Rep. Edward J. Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, called on the Obama administration to impose a moratorium on building new reactors in seismically active areas and to require those already in earthquake-prone zones to be retrofitted with stronger containment systems. He also called for a thorough investigation of whether design flaws contributed to the Japanese accident. Twenty three reactors in the U.S. use the same design parameters as Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant. (1)

“The unfolding disaster in Japan must produce a seismic shift in how we address nuclear safety here in America,” Rep. Markey said. (1)

Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas who has long supported nuclear power, said he hoped the damage to the reactor in Japan didn’t turn the American public off nuclear energy. But he added that “even proponents of nuclear power want to get to the bottom” of the Japanese accident and figure out what went wrong – and how to fix it. (1)

“I believe very strongly in the future of nuclear power,” Mr. Burton said, “but those who support it have to insist that the safety redundancy features perform” even during a catastrophic natural disaster. (1)

Even before the explosion in Japan, economic reality had taken a bite out of the nuclear industry’s ambitious expansion plans in the U.S. (1)

Natural gas has been so cheap that utilities have turned to it to generate electricity, rather than contemplate building multi-billion-dollar reactors. The recession has also dampened demand for electrical power, further diminishing the appeal of a massive investment in nuclear facilities. (1)

Nuclear Power in America
* The USA is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30% of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity.
* The country’s 104 nuclear reactors produced 799 billion kWh in 2009, over 20% of total electrical output.
* Following a 30-year period in which few new reactors were built, it is expected that 4-6 new units may come on line by 2018, the first of those resulting from 16 licence applications to build 24 new nuclear reactors made since mid-2007.
* Government policy changes since the late 1990s have helped pave the way for significant growth in nuclear capacity. Government and industry are working closely on expedited approval for construction and new plant designs. (3)

The USA has 104 nuclear power reactors in 31 states, operated by 30 different power companies. In 2008, the country generated 4,119 billion kWh net of electricity, 49% of it from coal-fired plant, 22% from gas and 6% from hydro. Nuclear achieved a capacity factor of 91.1%, generating 805 billion kWh and accounting for almost 20% of total electricity generated in 2008. Total capacity is 1088 GWe, less than one-tenth of which is nuclear. (3)

Annual electricity demand is projected to increase to 5000 billion kWh in 2030. Annual per capita electricity consumption is currently around 12,400 kWh. (3)

Sources:
(1) Wall Street Journal
(2) NRC website
(3) World Nuclear Association

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  1. March 15, 2011 at 3:46 am

    Nice content about U.S. Nuclear Industry. Its very rich for nuclear information. I like most that lines-“That cannot be good for an industry that’s looking for votes in Congress and in the state legislatures”. Thanks!

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