It’s Time to Modernize America’s Nuclear Power Policy

Jeff Luse wrote in The National Interest about the need to modernize America’s nuclear power policy.

For the first time in nearly thirty years, a newly constructed nuclear power plant provides energy for the U.S. grid. On Monday, the Georgia Southern-owned Vogtle Unit 3 powered up, bringing reliable, carbon-free power to nearly 500,000 homes and businesses in Georgia. 

While originally projected to come online in 2016 or 2017, Vogtle Unit 3 has run over time and over budget due largely to outdated regulations and inefficient licensing requirements. Unfortunately, the challenges Vogtle faced have become the status quo for the nuclear industry in the United States, hampering our ability to bring reliable nuclear energy to the grid. To reverse this trend, lawmakers must modernize regulations and implement a policy framework that supports innovation and deployment. 

An oft-cited criticism of nuclear power is that power plant construction is expensive. While some of these delays can be attributed to human error and poor project management, a far greater portion of these costs resulted from increased regulations legislated in the 1970s and 1980s. Over this time, the cost of building nuclear power plants increased by nearly 19 percent annually as power plants hired more engineers and managers to accommodate increasing regulations and inspections from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Safety changes after the accident at Three Mile Island alone—which led to precisely zero deaths, injuries, or direct health-related effects—were responsible for 10 percent of increased labor costs and 15 percent of new material costs required for new plants after 1979. 

Read the full article here.

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