Where exactly does the official US policy stand on the building of additional nuclear power plants? It seems Nebraskans and New Mexicans have good reasons for heightened concerns on whether our government is telling the truth about the dangers from any damage caused by the current flooding of the Missouri River to two of their nuclear power plants.
The specter of the devastating March 11, 2011 Japanese earthquake, resulting tsunami and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is still hanging over the nuclear power industry. Natural disasters including spreading wild-fires and rising floodwaters are now threatening three U.S. nuclear facilities; although officials are asserting all three facilities remain essentially safe.
Two nuclear power plants; the Fort Calhoun Station, 19 miles north of Omaha, Nebraska, and the Cooper Nuclear Station, located 85 miles downriver near Hamburg, Iowa were dealing with rising floodwaters of the swollen Missouri River.
Meanwhile, the out of control wild-fire near the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico-- a massive research facility that is home to several metric tons of plutonium and numerous other hazardous and volatile materials -- had inched to within just over a mile of the southern edge of that facility's boundary.
The wild-fires sparked fears and the facility was eventually evacuated, but officials have stressed everything is under control. This year’s natural disasters in Japan and the US may well mean the death knell for the nuclear power industry.
Curiously, leaders for neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are now publicly calling for the building of more power plants. Older nuclear plants, whose operating licenses are coming up for renewal, are having difficulties obtaining them.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NYSE:NRC) is ultimately the agency in charge of oversight and renewal of the operating permits for the power plants. States only control certain aspects such as location and use of water for the cooling towers.
The first test of this renewal system will be the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant near New York City operated by Entergy. Governor Cuomo announced early this year he would oppose the NRC renewal of the license by state denial of renewing the water quality certificate. The Indian Point Nuclear Power Plans supplies 25% of the electricity for New York City and the areas around it.
President Obama brought in nuclear advocate Steven Chu, with connections to Exelon, as his Energy Secretary with the charge to start the process of operating more nuclear power plants in the U.S. Exelon (NYSE:EXC) is a provider of energy services with an electric and natural gas distribution and is the largest nuclear operator in the United States.
Undeterred by the Japanese nuclear disaster, Obama pledged just two weeks following the initial explosions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility nuclear power should be revived in the U.S., as it provides “electricity without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.”
He added that he requested a comprehensive safety review by the NRC to insure the safety of existing facilities. “We’ll incorporate those conclusions and lessons from Japan in designing and building the next generation of nuclear plants,” Obama said. In other words it’s business as usual for the Democrats.
The American Energy Act introduced by House Republicans in June 2009 is now nowhere to be found. It would have established a national goal of licensing 100 new nuclear reactors over the next 20 years.
Thirty one announced reactor applications were in the pipeline, which would have revitalized an entire manufacturing sector and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Alas, the Act seems to have been 86’ed without comment and cannot be found anywhere on any of the official Republican web sites.
Nuclear energy would have been only one part of the Republican energy strategy for the US along with: “Drill, Baby, Drill” and the “All-of the-above” energy approach, which includes development of alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, hydropower, nuclear, geothermal and biomass, along with clean coal and American-made oil and natural gas. Take a look at the latest chart (right), from the Energy Information Agency's latest examination of U.S. energy output:
Click to enlarge
Some of these areas were declared off-limits by President Obama’s emphasis on alternative energy production such as solar, exotic bio fuels, wind power and tax incentives for the purchase of new plug-in cars and hybrid vehicles.
Recently Arnold Gundersen revealed the true extent of the Fukushima disaster with which the Japanese government is trying to deal. He said "Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind". Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience, managing and coordinating projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the US, says the Fukushima nuclear plant likely has more exposed reactor cores than commonly believed.
Some of the earlier versions of nuclear power plants in the US are of the type built in Fukushima. They were relatively economical to build and maintain but the piper now has to be paid in dealing with the aftermath of a nuclear meltdown.
But now, if you are looking for the American Energy Act, the following message appears on the GOP House website:
It seems like a coded message is being sent to the nuclear power industry they are in serious trouble and may even be in their final death knell?
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.