In the third and final issue in a series focused on nuclear exits, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE, turns its attention to the United States and looks at whether the country's business-as-usual approach may yet lead to a nuclear phase-out for economic reasons.
The Obama administration injected significant funding into two new nuclear reactor projects in Georgia in 2012. But where Japan and many European countries responded to the Fukushima disaster with public debate and significant policy shifts in the nuclear arena, the US has scarcely broached the subject.
According to former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Commissioner Peter Bradford, current market forces challenge the economic viability of existing nuclear power plants, with new reactors representing an extremely unattractive investment prospect.
Bradford added that allowing existing reactors to simply run out their licensed lifetimes in the current scenario, nuclear power may simply disappear.
Also Sharon Squassoni, a non-proliferation expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, said that a US nuclear phase out will have only minor international implications.
Squassoni added that governmental attempts to buoy the US commercial nuclear industry for national security reasons run the risk of blurring the distinction between civilian and military nuclear programs, undermining public backing for both.
Washington: In a 2012 report, the Obama administration had announced that it was "jumpstarting" the nuclear industry because of the industry's long history of permitting problems, cost overruns, and construction delays, financial markets have been wary of backing new nuclear construction for decades.
First Published: Sunday, March 03, 2013, 12:33