The American “Nuclear Renaissance” Is Over: “The Change in Nuclear’s Fortunes is Staggering” … a Horrible “Cauldron of Events” Has [Brought] the Nuclear Push to a Standstill”

American Nuclear Power Suffers Series of Setbacks

CNBC reports:

Once touted as a successor, or at least a competitor, to carbon-based power, the nuclear sector has taken a beating as the momentum behind new projects stalls and enthusiasm for domestic fossil fuel production grows.

Across the country, plans to build nuclear plants have hit roadblocks recently—a sharp turn for a sector that just a few years ago was looking forward to a renaissance.


In recent weeks, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruled against a proposed partnership between NRC Energy and Toshiba, citing a law that prohibits control of a U.S. plant by a foreign corporation.

Elsewhere, Duke Energy scuttled plans to construct two nuclear reactors in North Carolina, while California officials warned that two damaged reactors could be shut down permanently if the NRC doesn’t take action to get the plants back online.

The change in nuclear’s fortunes is staggering, given that the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power ….

“Starting about four years ago, the industry felt it was in the middle of a renaissance” with applications for many new plants pending with the NRC, said Peter Bradford, a law professor and a former member of the commission. “They’ve gone from that high-water mark to a point at which … we’re actually seeing the closing of a few operating plants,which was unthinkable even a few years ago.”


Bradford, who also served as a utility commissioner in New York and Maine, cited a “cauldron of events” for bringing the nuclear push to a standstill, including … soaring investment costs.

Ene News notes that California’s San Onofre nuclear plant hit a major speed bump:

Reuters: An independent nuclear regulatory panel on Monday called for a full public hearing on the proposed restart of one of the two damaged San Onofre nuclear reactors, a move that will delay Southern California Edison’s plan to run the plant this summer. […] Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth called the ruling “a complete rejection of Edison’s plan to restart its damaged nuclear reactors without public review or input.”

San Diego Union-Tribune: Murray Jennex, a former systems engineer at San Onofre for nearly 20 years who now teaches at San Diego State University’s College of Business Administration, said the order likely pushes back a final decision on restarting the Unit 2 reactor until after summer. “I won’t say this is a death blow to Unit 2, but it does make restart less likely,” Jennex said. “If approved, the additional downtime makes the Unit 2 restart more complex and costly due to corrosion issues from sitting.”

AP: San Onofre nuke plant restart halted […] A federal panel sided Monday with environmentalists who have called for lengthy hearings on a plan to restart the ailing San Onofre nuclear power plant — a decision that further clouds the future of the twin reactors.

An inside sources from within the San Onofre nuclear plant told ABC News:

I was there the day it shut down. I wouldn’t trust them to turn it back on.

[Update: The plant has now shut down permanently.]

The Palisades nuclear reactor is also in trouble. EneNews rounds up the latest:

WWMT: Congressman Fred Upton has just finished a tour of the troubled Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Covert. Rep. Upton says he’s very concerned about the safety at Palisades, especially after the latest incident. […] Because it wasn’t a planned release, Palisades is under serious scrutiny at this time.

ABC57: Palisades Nuclear Plant shut down until further notice […] Congressman Fred Upton is not sold on the safety at Palisades. […] Congressman Upton did not say the plant will be shutting down. But he did say that all options are on the table.  Palisades says they may look at replacing the tank that is cracked.

WOOD TV8: Authorities say they’ve found the crack that led to “slightly radioactive water” spilling from the Palisades nuclear power plant into Lake Michigan. […] The leak was in a 300,000-gallon tank used to hold water that floods and cools the nuclear reactor during refueling and in the event of a problem. The problem was a half-inch crack in the welding around one of nine nozzles in the tank, authorities said Monday. Three of those have been replaced and every weld and every nozzle is now being checked. The entire bottom of the tank is also being checked. That leaky tank sits right above the plant’s main control room. […]

Watch the broadcast here

The problem is that America’s nuclear reactors are old … and are falling apart piece by piece.

But – even after the Fukushima meltdown – regulators have reduced safety standards.

The Nuclear Regulator Commission say that the risk of a major meltdown at U.S. nuclear reactors is much higher than it was at Fukushima. And an accident in the U.S. could be a lot larger than in Japan … partly because our nuclear plants hold a lot more radioactive material. nuclear energy can be cheap, or it can be safe … but it can’t be both.

Indeed, nuclear is expensive and bad for the environment.  Nuclear is wholly subsidized by the government … and would never survive in a free market…. and it doesn’t really reduce global warming.

And it’s not helping inspire confidence in the our ability to safely handle radioactive materials that the former governor of Washington said that the Hanford Nuclear site is an “underground Chernobyl waiting to happen”, that Washington state legislators said that the failure to address the leaks at Hanford – “a very serious problem”, where 60 of the 177 underground tanks have already leaked and all of the tanks are at risk, and which threatens the Columbia River“smells like a very deliberate cover up”.

And it’s not helping that a “mass release of floating radioactive particles in metro St. Louis” may be released by the inferno at a landfill containing 8,700 tons of nuclear waste.

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  • Tonto

    Granted, the nuclear power industry is a nasty deal with the (scientific) devil.

    But what is the solution?

    Old world scientific-dreamers will espouse fusion, thorium reactors or something even more bizarre and dangerous. Why is fusion dangerous? If you have to have that question answered, you are scientifically incorrigible. Why are decentralized thorium reactors dangerous? If you have to have that question answered, you’ve never studied human nature.

    Scientific-environmentalist-dreamers will espouse solar and wind power alternatives. But neither the solar nor wind power initiatives will reduce the demand for energy. The decommissioning of nuclear, diesel or, even coal generating plants requires a reduction in demand for energy. Why? Because the demand for energy increases all the time, (in theory), and no less especially -if the price drops.

    So, what is the solution? Should we allow the price of energy to go up? Or, should we continue to allow these dangerous technological solutions to expand to supply the seemingly insatiable need for more energy?

    The truth is, the price is going up anyway. Government derives huge tax revenues from energy, and the carbon tax is taxing energy more all the time. Government is in a budget-hungry spot, a spot that is not forecast to get sated in the foreseeable future. So, the question devolves down to our only alternative, (reduction of consumption), since the scientific dreamers are only fooling themselves and a few others who get caught up in the endless puffing about technological solutions to the infinitely complex problems (like energy) that hem us in -on all sides- in every facet of our scientifically oriented culture bent on growth in the scientific economy.

    The only real solution is to use less energy. I’m not talking about going off-grid. And I’m not talking about some nationally inspired conservation policy.

    I am talking about what is taking place already. Everyone is getting much poorer in relationship to the cost of energy. This is a fact that is not likely to change anytime in the far-off foreseeable future. Humanity’s -average person- is rapidly getting much poorer, especially in terms of his wealth measured in energy costs. So, consumption of energy is declining, -per capita in the U.S. and worldwide too. Remarkably, consumption of total energy is declining. Worldwide oil demand and consumption has dropped continuously and precipitously since the 2009 collapse, and still the price rises. It’s not peak oil doing the trick. It’s rising poverty in the world.

    Is rising poverty a bad thing? Let’s see.

    Overall consumer consumption of all sorts is declining in the U.S. -and- around the world. This is a good thing resulting from an increasingly impoverished world. Logically, and quite remarkably, reversing the consumption trends of the Twentieth Century can only lead to a higher standard of living for everyone. How so?

    The scientific processes required to feed consumption reduce the standard of living of everyone worldwide. All this push for growth in the economy, as it turns out in any cogent, logical, rational analysis, has really only resulted in an unintended and mostly unobserved consequence of a reduction in everyone’s standard of living.

    We do not need all the consumerism crap. And we do not need to consume so much energy. What everyone is slowly coming to understand now is, we need to protect our standard of living, -before we think about endorsing any policy designed to increase growth in the economy. Why?

    Because growth in the scientific economy has for a long time been destroying our standard of living.

    • David Mills

      Except that you are totally wrong about thorium. What makes thorium such a good substitute for what we have now, is human nature. When a liquid fluoride thorium reactor fails, a salt plug which is frozen looses its cooling source and the liquid fluoride thorium is drained from the area where it was being bombarded with neutrons. Without the bombardment of neutrons, criticality ceases. And liquid fluoride thorium reactors never need to be in a pressurized vessel. So the risk of hydrogen explosion like Fukishima is non-existent. No other energy source will be as fail safe. Plus thorium reactors can be used to burn up our nuclear waste and produce almost none of their own. And much of the “waste” which is produced is not really waste at all because most of it has significant commercial uses in space and medicine.

      Liquid fluoride thorium reactors would be far safer and far less polluting than any fossil fuel. In fact, a coal plant puts more thorium in the atmosphere than a liquid fluoride thorium reactor even uses.

      I just read yesterday that whooping cranes are now in serious decline and the culprit is presumed to be wind farms. Look to wind energy to be in serious decline soon unless there is a drastic change in windmill design.

      Solar will never produce the amount of energy we need to run our homes and cars. The sun’s energy is just not concentrated enough.

      If we don’t have a more powerful source of energy than solar or wind, we can expect a serious decline in our standard of living. Thorium is the only source that gives me hope for the planet.

      • Tonto

        Scientists (and those who feign to think like them) have no capacity to understand or factor in the infinite complexity of reality that has brought their scientific reign of terror to an abrupt end. Your comment entirely ignores the categorical thrust of mine. I am saying I can definitively say that because the self-supposed omniscience you portray about yourself in your argument is based on science, that you are not only wrong, you are a danger to society for making the recommendations you are making here.

        Science in effect, has made you mentally ill and a danger to society.

        Thorium is a massively deadly poison. And you have no scientific way to deal with this poison that can account for all the possible contingencies surrounding its deadliness. Science has no logical or rational capacity to deal with the infinite complexity of reality. Science cannot be rendered benign. The hubris of science is irrational and illogical.

        For instance, what if terrorists target thorium reactors and simply blown them up with dynamite? Reality is indeed infinitely complex.

        Only categorical knowledge can logically account for and control the poison of thorium. Categorical knowledge recognizes that thorium reactors are another immoral gamble. They represent no solution. Thorium reactors (by the hundreds of thousands nonetheless) only represent another -even bigger- nuclear problem.

        Categorical knowledge always admits possible error, because reality is known to be infinitely complex. So the categorical thinker always moves with extreme caution, constantly re-reflecting back on every step of all logical processes, especially when trying to justify applying new ideas to any situation.

        New ideas, especially new scientific ideas, are merely immoral guesses and immoral gambles. Why? Because reality is not only infinitely complex. Categorical thinkers recognize human scientists (due to human nature) -will always choose to- gamble -even where their wager risks destroying the future. Scientists risk destroying the future all the time. Categorical thinkers will no longer allow the inherent risk of the gambles of scientists.

        Scientists are quite simply, mentally ill and a danger to society.

        Reality is also known to be immensely unforgiving. You are wrong about thorium reactors. They should not be implemented for the risk they represent.

        You have not learned the human lesson of “clean, safe nuclear energy” in Fukushima.

        You do realize that Fukushima could be the -On the Beach- extinction event? And you want to add the decentralized sources of the radiation of thorium to the deadly cocktail mix of scientifically approved radioactive waste in our environment already?

        Such an insane rationale is scientific hubris in action.

        • Casper

          I have never read such Luddite drivel in my life. This fellow is so obssessed with the “infinite complexity of reality” it is surprising that he has not already placed himself into a mental institution after freaking out going to the shops.

          Luddites of the world unite! We must protect our right to pollute the world with worthless, ugly wind farms! Wall to wall wind farms, yeah, thats environmental paradise for you.

          For gods sake lad, go back to the 14th century. And when you get a rotten wisdom tooth, please die painfully and horribly.

          • Tonto

            This guy -Casper Einstein- must be the typical swaggering and slurring science groupie. He seems to think it makes him look intelligent to be on the side of the fence with the nutjob scientists who designed the Fukushima nuclear reactors.

            It was immoral. It remains immoral, to have ever even considered the idea of something like the Fukushima reactors as having the potential to benefit humanity.

            Gambling with the future by allowing more scientific nutjobs to roll the nuclear dice again on humanity, is not going to reduce the complexity that makes foreseeing the horrible consequences of this sort of scientific hubris -impossible-.

            Beam Casper up, Scotty. In this high stakes game, he’s lost all his marbles again.

          • WalterHorsting

            Light Water Reactors are a problem due to solid fuels, they only burn 1-3% of their fuel and are toxic for 300K years. The patent holder of the Light Water Reactor was concerned for safety and then developed the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor. The AEC recommended its use for civilian power for safety, because it wasn’t useful for making bombs it was shelved. 6600 tons + 5B tons of coal + 31B barrels of Oil + 3 m3 gas + 75k tons of uranium. As Thorium is found with rare earth elements (think wind turbine magnets and lithium batteries for Tesla cars) there is now need to mine Thorium.

            Thorium is radioactive than granite countertop, radon from a gas cooktop or the potasium in a banana. Yes you shouldn’t inhale its dust like many household cleaners or water. It is a fertile material with a half life of 15 billion years, very stable, Now what is can’t do in a Molten Salt Reactor is: Make CO2, blow up, melt down or make weapons. It won’t kill birds like wind mills or to scale a replacement for San Onofre (recently closed) need 60,000 acres of solar panels due to thier 30% online issues (no power) and no to mention the infrastructure needed to build a farm, make the panels and transmit the power.

            The Molten Salt Reactor was developed at Oak Ridge National Labs in the 1960s and China is now on a crash program because it needs dense 24 x7 power as does the world.

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