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What Is the Future of US Nuclear Power Industry?

时间:2017-08-15 22:58来源:互联网 提供网友:nan   字体: [ ]


As America’s nuclear power industry continues to suffer major economic difficulties, some are questioning whether it can - or should - survive.

The latest setback1 came July 31, when state power companies in South Carolina halted construction of two reactors2. After spending about $9 billion, the companies decided3 that increasing costs and repeated building delays did not make the project worth finishing.

U.S. energy company Westinghouse Electric had been building the nuclear plant, which it started in 2012. In March, Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy4, due in part to huge losses related to the South Carolina project, as well as others.

Industry groups had hoped the South Carolina reactors would mark a new beginning for U.S. nuclear power and show the benefits of the latest technology.

The United States remains5 the world’s top producer of nuclear power, according to the British-based World Nuclear Association. The country’s 100 reactors provide nearly 20 percent of total U.S. electrical output.

However, only two new nuclear reactors are currently being built in the United States – both of them in Georgia. The reactors were the first large nuclear plants to be started in the United States in more than 30 years. And the future of those reactors is uncertain.

The project - currently about half-finished - has also suffered major cost overruns and delays. For now, the company’s parent, Japan-based Toshiba, has promised to provide at least $3.7 billion to finish the project.

Challenges for nuclear power industry

One of the main factors causing the industry’s economic problems is the country’s large, cheap supply of natural gas. The supply became available due to widespread fracking operations.

There is also much lower demand in the U.S. for electricity than ever before. This came about after many improvements in energy efficiency and success with conservation efforts.

President Donald Trump6 has called for a complete review of U.S. nuclear energy policy in an effort to “revitalize” the industry. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has also said he sees nuclear power as a very important part of future U.S. energy policy. There has also been support from both major parties in Congress.?

David Fedor is a researcher with the Hoover Institution’s Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy. He says states and the federal government can take steps to help energize7 the U.S. nuclear industry, mainly by providing financial assistance.

“Congress could increase the subsidies8 to nuclear to the level that they give to other power generation technologies - like wind and solar - that have similarly desirable attributes, basically no pollution and essentially9 no carbon emissions10.”

Fedor said another action could be putting a “carbon tax” on plants fueled by coal, oil or natural gas. The idea is that this could indirectly12 benefit the nuclear industry by making costs higher for companies producing environment-harming emissions.

He also said the industry needs to be more efficient, reduce costs and sell the public on why nuclear is still a good energy option.

“When you talk about these newer technologies that are sort of walk-away safe, then people shift in their perspective and say, ok, this is something new. This is not the same old thing that we've been talking about for the past 20 or 30 years. And so there's some excitement there.”

But some opponents say they’ve been hearing the same arguments in support of nuclear power for decades.

Paul Gunter is a longtime anti-nuclear activist13. He co-founded the Clamshell Alliance in 1976. The group was formed to oppose the Seabrook Station nuclear plant in New Hampshire. He and hundreds of other protesters were arrested during non-violent demonstrations14 against the project. Gunter says his main opposition15 was that the licensing16 approval process was corrupt17.

“For example, you couldn't raise the issue of, what are you going to do with all the nuclear waste from Seabrook? And that question was not allowed in the licensing proceeding18.”

Seabrook Station was eventually completed at a cost of about $7 billion and began operations in 1990. The Clamshell Alliance helped shape America’s anti-nuclear movement for many years to come.

Another defining moment came after the Three Mile Island plant accident in Pennsylvania in 1979 - the worst nuclear disaster in U.S. history. A series of mechanical and human mistakes sent one of the reactors into a partial meltdown, sending large amounts of radiation into the surrounding area.

Gunter says even before that accident, there were clear signs the nuclear industry would not be economically sustainable. Today, he says neither state utility providers nor large energy companies are willing to put up money for risky19 nuclear projects.

“So the only way that you can revive nuclear power is going to be through socializing its financing through the rate payer and the taxpayer20. But at this point, we're seeing the rate payer become the irate21 payer - when you waste billions and billions of dollars and decades on a predictable outcome.”

Could this be the answer?

Some energy experts have suggested that one way to revive U.S. nuclear power is to completely scale down the way reactors are currently designed and built. They say this approach could improve efficiency and safety of plants while cutting costs.

Jacopo Buongiorno is a professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He says one option is to build small modular reactors. These reactors work much the same way as large plants, but would greatly reduce building time and total costs.

“They're small. They could be, in principle, built in factories and then delivered to the site in larger pieces. So you are shifting work from an environment which is intrinsically expensive and low productivity – a construction site - to an environment which is intrinsically high productivity, and less expensive.”

He added that these power generators22 could be built in 3-4 years, compared to 7-10 years or more for larger reactors. Buongiorno is also studying the possibility of small nuclear plants that would float in the sea. These could improve safety by being far away from population centers in case of accident. The ocean water could also help the reactor’s necessary cooling process.

Despite the U.S. downturn, some parts of the world are expanding their nuclear power capability23. Asia currently has the most nuclear plants under construction, according to the World Nuclear Association.

At the end of 2016, 20 of the world’s 61 nuclear power projects were in China, the organization reported. Another 15 were being built in India, Pakistan and Russia.

In Europe, France operates by far the most reactors, 58. But new French energy policy aims to reduce the country’s share of nuclear energy from 75 percent today, to 50 percent by 2025.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

And I'm Alice Bryant.

Words in This Story

bankruptcy – n. financial failure caused by not having enough money to pay debts

fracking – n. method used for getting oil and gas from underground rocks by injecting liquid into the rocks

efficiency – n. the quality or degree of being efficient

conservation – n. the protection of animals, plants and natural resources

revitalize – v. make something more active or lively

subsidy24 – n. money given by a government to help pay costs

emission11 – n. gas or energy that is sent into the air

partial – adj. not complete

sustainable – adj. able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed

irate – adj. very angry

principle – n. basic truth or theory

intrinsically – adv. occurring as a natural part of something


1 setback XzuwD     
  • Since that time there has never been any setback in his career.从那时起他在事业上一直没有遇到周折。
  • She views every minor setback as a disaster.她把每个较小的挫折都看成重大灾难。
2 reactors 774794d45796c1ac60b7fda5e55a878b     
起反应的人( reactor的名词复数 ); 反应装置; 原子炉; 核反应堆
  • The TMI nuclear facility has two reactors. 三哩岛核设施有两个反应堆。 来自英汉非文学 - 环境法 - 环境法
  • The earliest production reactors necessarily used normal uranium as fuel. 最早为生产用的反应堆,必须使用普通铀作为燃料。
3 decided lvqzZd     
  • This gave them a decided advantage over their opponents.这使他们比对手具有明显的优势。
  • There is a decided difference between British and Chinese way of greeting.英国人和中国人打招呼的方式有很明显的区别。
4 bankruptcy fPoyJ     
  • You will have to pull in if you want to escape bankruptcy.如果你想避免破产,就必须节省开支。
  • His firm is just on thin ice of bankruptcy.他的商号正面临破产的危险。
5 remains 1kMzTy     
  • He ate the remains of food hungrily.他狼吞虎咽地吃剩余的食物。
  • The remains of the meal were fed to the dog.残羹剩饭喂狗了。
6 trump LU1zK     
  • He was never able to trump up the courage to have a showdown.他始终鼓不起勇气摊牌。
  • The coach saved his star player for a trump card.教练保留他的明星选手,作为他的王牌。
7 energize GpyxN     
  • It is used to energize the city.它的作用是为城市供给能量。
  • This is a great way to energize yourself and give yourself more power!这种方法非常棒,可以激活你的能量,让你有更多的活力!
8 subsidies 84c7dc8329c19e43d3437248757e572c     
n.补贴,津贴,补助金( subsidy的名词复数 )
  • European agriculture ministers failed to break the deadlock over farm subsidies. 欧洲各国农业部长在农业补贴问题上未能打破僵局。
  • Agricultural subsidies absorb about half the EU's income. 农业补贴占去了欧盟收入的大约一半。 来自《简明英汉词典》
9 essentially nntxw     
  • Really great men are essentially modest.真正的伟人大都很谦虚。
  • She is an essentially selfish person.她本质上是个自私自利的人。
10 emissions 1a87f8769eb755734e056efecb5e2da9     
排放物( emission的名词复数 ); 散发物(尤指气体)
  • Most scientists accept that climate change is linked to carbon emissions. 大多数科学家都相信气候变化与排放的含碳气体有关。
  • Dangerous emissions radiate from plutonium. 危险的辐射物从钚放散出来。
11 emission vjnz4     
  • Rigorous measures will be taken to reduce the total pollutant emission.采取严格有力措施,降低污染物排放总量。
  • Finally,the way to effectively control particulate emission is pointed out.最后,指出有效降低颗粒排放的方向。
12 indirectly a8UxR     
  • I heard the news indirectly.这消息我是间接听来的。
  • They were approached indirectly through an intermediary.通过一位中间人,他们进行了间接接触。
13 activist gyAzO     
  • He's been a trade union activist for many years.多年来他一直是工会的积极分子。
  • He is a social activist in our factory.他是我厂的社会活动积极分子。
14 demonstrations 0922be6a2a3be4bdbebd28c620ab8f2d     
证明( demonstration的名词复数 ); 表明; 表达; 游行示威
  • Lectures will be interspersed with practical demonstrations. 讲课中将不时插入实际示范。
  • The new military government has banned strikes and demonstrations. 新的军人政府禁止罢工和示威活动。
15 opposition eIUxU     
  • The party leader is facing opposition in his own backyard.该党领袖在自己的党內遇到了反对。
  • The police tried to break down the prisoner's opposition.警察设法制住了那个囚犯的反抗。
16 licensing 7352ce0b4e0665659ae6466c18decb2a     
v.批准,许可,颁发执照( license的现在分词 )
  • A large part of state regulation consists of occupational licensing. 大部分州的管理涉及行业的特许批准。 来自英汉非文学 - 行政法
  • That licensing procedures for projects would move faster. 这样的工程批准程序一定会加快。 来自辞典例句
17 corrupt 4zTxn     
  • The newspaper alleged the mayor's corrupt practices.那家报纸断言市长有舞弊行为。
  • This judge is corrupt.这个法官贪污。
18 proceeding Vktzvu     
  • This train is now proceeding from Paris to London.这次列车从巴黎开往伦敦。
  • The work is proceeding briskly.工作很有生气地进展着。
19 risky IXVxe     
  • It may be risky but we will chance it anyhow.这可能有危险,但我们无论如何要冒一冒险。
  • He is well aware how risky this investment is.他心里对这项投资的风险十分清楚。
20 taxpayer ig5zjJ     
  • The new scheme will run off with a lot of the taxpayer's money.这项新计划将用去纳税人许多钱。
  • The taxpayer are unfavourably disposed towards the recent tax increase.纳税者对最近的增加税收十分反感。
21 irate na2zo     
  • The irate animal made for us,coming at a full jump.那头发怒的动物以最快的速度向我们冲过来。
  • We have received some irate phone calls from customers.我们接到顾客打来的一些愤怒的电话
22 generators 49511c3cf5edacaa03c4198875f15e4e     
n.发电机,发生器( generator的名词复数 );电力公司
  • The factory's emergency generators were used during the power cut. 工厂应急发电机在停电期间用上了。
  • Power can be fed from wind generators into the electricity grid system. 电力可以从风力发电机流入输电网。 来自《简明英汉词典》
23 capability JsGzZ     
  • She has the capability to become a very fine actress.她有潜力成为杰出演员。
  • Organizing a whole department is beyond his capability.组织整个部门是他能力以外的事。
24 subsidy 2U5zo     
  • The university will receive a subsidy for research in artificial intelligence.那个大学将得到一笔人工智能研究的补助费。
  • The living subsidy for senior expert's family is included in the remuneration.报酬已包含高级专家家人的生活补贴。
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