What is taking so long?

It seems like this resurrection of nuclear power in the US is taking forever. Most schedules I have seen put new plant construction years away. What will it take to get this moving a little faster?

7 Replies

  • Great question.  There are a lot of reasons for it taking so long.  The main reasons are economics, regulations, and public confidence.

    Economics:  Nuclear power requires a very large capital investment.  I have heard people say it might cost 3-8 billion dollars for a new nuclear power plant.  But no one knows for sure because the reactor designs are new and we haven't built a reactor in the last 30+ years in the United States.  Once the reactor is built, producing electricity becomes very cheep. That is way reactors are getting operation life extensions. I think companies are waiting for one or two people to build reactors to see what the real cost will be. If the reactor can be build within budget and with minor delays we will see a lot more new nuclear reactors.

    Regulations: The NRC has never licensed a power reactor with the current dual license regulation I do not know a lot about regulation, but know that the construction and operation licenses are going to take a while to get.

    Public Confidence:  Some of the public is still afraid of nuclear power.  I think the public is accepting nuclear power more and more, but this will take time before most Americans are at least neutral about nuclear power.  I feel that additional financial resources should be allocated to help promote nuclear power as a safe cheep and carbon free source of electricity.  I would like to see TV commercials, radio adds, etc on this topic. 

  • In reply to Nukespud:

     Mostly economics and regulatory delay. 



    Recession...need for new power is deferred

    Cost of Money ...lack of load growth causes WS to not want to loan money

    Costs:  Costly construction makes it impossible to predict costs....recent construction schedules are totally unrealistic due to lack of experience on the part of those formulating the schedules.

    Analysis Paralyysis:  So many wild cards makes it difficult to commit...and experience shows that a nuke plant that goes bad ends careeers.

    Regulatory Delay:  the intervenors have help craft a licensing scheme that is absurd. License a plant that has not been designed.  Push all unknowns into the future and hope that they do  not come back to bite you.  Pay the NRC $250/hr to review license submittals.  No incentive to do reviews in a timely manner.  If you paid me $250/hr to review submittals I would find so many questions that you would run out of  money before I was finished. 

    One stop licensing allows utilities to tip toe into the stream but not really commit.  And Washington has trained everyone to expect a bailout with fiat money.  Economy has been destroyed so large capital projects are very difficult to move forward.

    Those that have actually built, operated, refueled, and otherwise supported large projects such as a nuclear power plant are few and far between...and many are leaving the work force.  No one ot fly the plane except some raw recruits...not the way to win a war as Germany found out when all the aces were killed and green recruits were thrown into fighters to be shot down by more experienced allied pilots.


    AND FINALLY  when natural gas is at $3/MBTU...hard to justify nuke plants when cheapo combined cycle plants can be built in a few years with no real risk.  Packer technology has unlocked huge amounts of natural gas and this developement may stall nuclear plant development.


  • In reply to Butch:

     Thanks for your replies!

    I can understand the economics part of it....supply and demand...and demand is down. 

    What I don't get is why it takes the NRC so long for the review.? Sure, it is a money maker for them but when they are reviewing a design like the EPR (that the French approved and are now building at Flamanville!) for an existing nuclear site like Calvert Cliffs, why is it taking over 2 years and counting to review? What happen to the 18 months they said it takes for a review? Who was it Obama or Chu that said it is more like 18 years to approve a new plant? Obviously joking but the message was sent...it is taking too long!

  • In reply to nuclearforme:

    I think the NRC is currently doing a good job.  They have said it will take up to 3 years to review a license application.  I think this is a reasonable time frame. 

    In the past, the NRC has taken a long time for approving both construction and operation permits. (In the past these were two separate licenses)  In the past a reactor could be constructed and then wait 10+ years before it could get a license to operate.  There was even at least one reactor that was built but never given permit to operate.  (Talk about expensive)

    The NRC is on track for approving a joint construction and operation permit.  The question that remains is whether after constructing the reactor if the courts will allow lawsuits to stop the operation of the reactor.  In theory they would not be allowed to, but this is America where courts and legislation do not always get along.


  • I'm a big fan of "slow and steady wins the race"

    extended wait times aren't always a bad thing, and can ensure proper attention being given to each application - this window allows for time to ensure proper safety standards are in place.


    Seems like the NRC is doing a great job keeping everything in line, even though there may be a wait time involved.


  • In reply to THOR:

    It may seem like the NRC is on track but are they not trying to approve previously approved designs that are more inherently safer than ever before.  We have already built 100+ similar reactors in the USA what is taken so long to approve one more.

    What really concerns me is future reactors.  How long will the NRC take to approve completely new designs?  We could build high temperature gas reactors for oil shell and tar sand extraction.  We could build fast reactors for transmutation and recycling purposes.  We could build small portable reactors for electricity production in small population areas like Alaska.  We could build reactors that do not ever need to be refueled (just ask the navy).

    However, the NRC is taking a long time to approve already previously constructed reactors.  Slow and steady in children’s books may win the race but with an exponentially increasing population and pollution the NRC’s slow and steady pace may not even qualify entering the race

  • It will take courageous political representatives and caring citizens like yourself to speak up about the unfair restrictions placed on Nuclear energy. The whole regimented and punitive approach needs changing. The application is enormously expensive and the company is out $50 million if they are turned down. The anti nuclear lobbyist's voice is too strong. More counter lobbyists need to be vocal. Ask yourself: What if nuclear energy is the only way to rid the planet of fossil fuel plants? What if it is the only way to eliminate CO2 green house gases? What if it is the only way to become truly energy independent and introduce a whole generation of electric cars and the only way they could materialize? If nuclear were in place charging their batteries would be far cheaper and less polluting. It's time to really do something that will make a difference. Most of the other changes people talk about like more renewable energy and more Natural Gas will truthfully not be enough.

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