The Doomsday Clock is an internationally recognized design that conveys how close we are to destroying our civilization with dangerous technologies of our own making. First and foremost among these are nuclear weapons, but the dangers include climate-changing technologies, emerging... Read More
The author argues that due to a range of challenges, ranging from the dangers of terrorism to the difficulty of evacuating Karachi, Pakistan will face high risks if it enlarges its nuclear power sector.
America's senior citizens once dreamed of moving to a beach house in Florida or touring the nation's parks in a motor home when they turned 65. But the global financial crisis has taken a heavy toll on retirement plans. During the past four years, many seniors have watched helplessly as their homes plummeted in value and their 401(k) savings plans became 201(k)s.
Last year, Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors discovered design problems at the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska and the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York. In the former case, the NRC applied the most serious sanction levied against any reactor in 2010 and required the plant's owner to correct the problem. But at Indian Point, the NRC essentially shrugged and allowed the safety problem to go unsanctioned and uncorrected.
How vulnerable are US nuclear reactors to the kind of disaster that is occurring at Fukushima Daiichi? Considering that one in three Americans lives within 50 miles of a nuclear plant, the public deserves access to all information that can shed light on this question. Yet a straight answer has been difficult to obtain from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the nuclear industry.
To its credit, in the 30 years since the accident at Three Mile Island, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has taken many steps to improve the safety and security of U.S. nuclear reactors. But despite these efforts and the fact that a Three Mile Island-scale accident hasn't occurred in the United States since 1979, safety and security vulnerabilities remain at the country's nuclear plants. And what is more relevant than the absence of large-scale accidents is the alarming frequency of serious near misses.
A common factor that differentiates top performing from underperforming nuclear power plants is the health of their corrective action programs (CAPs). By law, plant owners must have such programs in place that find and fix problems in a timely manner.
The United States operates 104 nuclear power reactors, which provide nearly 20 percent of the nation's electricity. More than half have had their original 40-year operating licenses renewed for an additional 20 years. Encouraged by billions of dollars in subsidies and incentives in the 2005 Energy Bill, a handful of companies applied for licenses to build new reactors last fall, and other companies are expected to apply later this year.
In the months since this exchange began, one episode after another has established that the
nuclear power surge emerging from Washington is not the benign version that its more idealistic
proponents envision. These episodes include: President George W. Bush hauling the Nuclear
James K. Asselstine Managing director at Lehman Brothers, Inc., where he heads the firm's electric utility fixed income research team, and a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) commissioner, 1982-1987