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New Nuke Fission. News on Nuke Fusion. Confused?

At the risk of posting two blogs in one week on nuclear power, there were two great stories today that I thought were worth sharing: one about the present world of nuclear and one about possible future world of nuclear.

Present

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) seems ready to approve a new (fission) nuclear power plant.  If so, it would be the first new license since, gulp, 1978 (reminder, Jimmy Carter was President and disco was king).  The plant would be built by Southern Company near Augusta, Georgia for an eye-popping $13 billion and change (assuming in comes in close to budget).

That seems like a ton of cash but the plant could last 60 years.  The 11 nuclear reactors in Illinois were pricey in their day but ask their owner, Exelon, if they were worth the investment (paid by consumers).  These plants currently provide almost have the electricity generated in the state.

Even with the license there is no guarantee the plant will get built as 10 anti-nuclear groups are lining up to file lawsuits aimed at stopping construction.  Here’s an article from the Washington Post that sums up the situation rather well.

Future

The supposed holy grail for nuclear energy was and still could be fusion technology. The idea is to use the same process that powers the sun and stars and bring it to earth to create clean, abundant energy for a power-hungry planet. Here is Ken Silverstein’s take on it in his Energy Biz blog.

The biggest surprises to me are that fusion R&D is still going on at all and that it’s internationally funded.  No one country could take on the expenses associate with this but the payoff is so great that countries like China, Russia and the U.S. are joining together to see if the miracle can happen.

Conclusion

Both the present and future hold a lot of promise and pitfalls for the nuclear energy industry.  But solving one of mankind’s greatest challenges (the need for more and more energy) certainly won’t be easy or cheap.  So let’s hope for their continued success!

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