In Georgia, the country’s only new nuclear power project needs $12 billion in federal loan guarantees to survive. Existing nuclear plants are also clamoring for subsidies to avoid closure. But it’s time to gain some real insight into the safety risks posed by the reactors that are still running.
The Trump administration recently announced another desperate push to prop up the only new US nuclear power plant construction project still in play — at Plant Vogtle, Georgia. But the reality for nuclear power is that it is on a downward slide toward extinction.
US Energy Secretary Rick Perry recently awarded an additional $3.7 billion in federal loan guarantees to the over-budget and behind schedule project at Vogtle — on top of the $8.3 billion in subsidies the project has already received.
Six US reactors — at five sites — have closed since 2013. Seven more remain on target to close within the next eight years, some of them as soon as 2019. A handful more had announced planned shutdowns, then received bailouts to prolong their existence, even though the plants are uneconomical and in dangerously degraded states due to aging and other factors. Wear and tear is a concern with any aging technology, but the risk factor goes up dramatically when nuclear power plants, filled with radioactive materials, are at issue.
Given the complexity of nuclear plants, their aging parts, rubber-stamped operating license extensions and their vulnerability to catastrophic failure, it makes sense to examine the “dead” reactors for a more reliable safety assessment of the potential failings of the “living” reactors. But the nuclear industry and its regulator, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), has successfully avoided this common-sense safety procedure for decades. Given …read more