For the first time in 30 years, the United States has licensed the construction of new nuclear reactors. Given a price tag of $10 billion per plant, the comparatively cheap cost of alternatives such as natural gas, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the decision is fraught with controversy. Aside from these new reactors, the country must also decide what to do with its fleet of 104 aging nuclear facilities. Licenses for about 70 of them have been renewed and the others are pending or expected. If any one plant is taken off line, how would that electricity be replaced?
It’s too early to know precisely how the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear complex will shake up the industry, said experts convened by Climate One on Friday, April 8, in San Francisco. The panel agreed that nuclear power, despite offering the promise of carbon-free electricity and safer next-generation reactors, is challenged by steep upfront costs and where to store spent fuel.