This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 01, 2002

Is Nuclear Power Coming Back in the United States?

It's been over 20 years since a new nuclear plant has been proposed in the United States, but recent news suggests this languishing power source may be having a revival. Thanks to a new, streamlined licensing process offered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and a DOE offer to share the cost of preparing a permit, three nuclear operating companies have announced their intentions to apply for a so-called "early site permit" at existing nuclear stations. Entergy Nuclear, one of the three, emphasized that it does not currently plan to build a new nuclear plant, but will examine the economics three to five years from now. The company applied for a permit at its Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, located in Port Gibson, Mississippi. According to Entergy, the new permits, if granted, would be good for 20 years and could then be renewed for another 20 years. See the Entergy press release.

For more information about the DOE offer to fund new site permits, see the press release on the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy, Science & Technology.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is considering restarting its Browns Ferry Unit 1 nuclear power plant. A new report estimates that it will take five years and $1.7 billion to restart the reactor, which has not operated since 1985. The project is currently undergoing an environmental review. See the TVA press release.

Although nuclear generating capacity has remained essentially steady for the past 12 years, nuclear operators have successfully kept the units operating more often in recent years. According to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA), the amount of electricity generated by U.S. nuclear plants achieved a record last year, at 768.8 billion kilowatt-hours. See the EIA press release.

See also the EIA chart of nuclear generating capacity.

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