Another nail in the coffin for the “nuclear renaissance”
by Guest Blogger
May 23, 2011
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released a statement on Friday about the new Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactor. In the grand tradition of breaking bad news on a Friday, the NRC was trying to bury a significant blow to the so-called “nuclear renaissance.” After a review of the Toshiba-designed reactor, the NRC found: “more problems regarding the AP1000’s shield building, as well as the peak accident pressures expected within containment.”
This news will further delay the construction of new nuclear reactors in the United States. Southern Company has already dug a big hole in the ground for two AP1000 reactors in Georgia, which is only possible because of an $8.3 billion taxpayer-funded loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. Further construction will now have to wait for additional review of the design.
The AP1000 is supposed to be the backbone of the “nuclear renaissance,” and this is only the latest problem with the reactor design. Last year, a former nuclear executive and 39-year industry veteran released an analysis showing that the likelihood of a hole in the steel containment dome is much greater in the AP1000 design than current reactors. If that happened, which is not uncommon given that there have been 80 documented problems with containment systems in the U.S., radiation could be released far and wide through a chimney effect.
The design of new nuclear reactors is flawed. A majority of Americans oppose taxpayer-funded reactor construction. Wall Street also refuses to back it. And, the Fukushima catastrophe has reminded us that nuclear power is an inherently dangerous technology.