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Monday
Jan022012

Fukushima further bursts the bubble of the "nuclear renaissance"

Images such as this explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor seared into the public's mind internationallyIn a new report entitled "Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Economics: Historically, Accidents Dim the Prospects for Nuclear Reactor Construction; Fukushima Will Have a Major Impact," Dr. Mark Cooper of the Vermont Law School's Institute for Energy and the Environment compares the cost increases for new reactor construction -- due to increased nuclear safety regulation in the aftermath of the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown -- to escalating costs that can be expected after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. Cooper points out, however, the new reactor construction costs were already skyrocketing before the TMI and Fukushima meltdowns -- but the accidents accelerated the cost increases dramatically.

He concludes: "From a big picture perspective, Fukushima has had and is likely to continue to have an electrifying impact because it combines the most powerful message from TMI on cost escalation with the most powerful message from Chernobyl on the risk of nuclear reactors in a nation where it was not supposed to happen. And, it has taken place in an environment where information and images flow instantaneously around the world, so the public sees the drama and trauma of losing control of a nuclear reaction in real time."

Cooper points out that of the dozens of new reactors proposed in the U.S. over the past decade, the number of reactors actually moving forward is but a handful, and those only through heavy subsidies, such as the $8.33 billion federal loan guarantee for two new AP1000s at Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia.