A New Future for Nuclear Power?

With energy demand and costs rising—along with air-pollution concerns—some observers are seeing growing potential for nuclear energy. A recent report from the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) indicates that new technologies offer the possibility of lower construction costs and safer operations.

06/01/2005


With energy demand and costs rising—along with air-pollution concerns—some observers are seeing growing potential for nuclear energy. A recent report from the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) indicates that new technologies offer the possibility of lower construction costs and safer operations.

The report, " Burning Bright: Nuclear Energy's Future ," cites U.S. Energy Information Administration figures forecasting the need for 350,000 MW of new generating capacity by 2025. Operating costs for nuclear power now run 1.7 cents per kilowatt hour (kW/h) , slightly lower than coal and much less than 3 to 5 cents per kW/h for natural-gas plants.

The report was written by Larry Foulke , a past president of the American Nuclear Society , along with H. Sterling Burnett , a senior fellow at the conservative Dallas-based NCPA. The authors state that nuclear-plant construction costs have dropped to an estimated $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion.

Emerging technologies such as pebble-bed reactors (PBRs) could make nuclear reactors safer and more efficient, the report says. These units use helium as a coolant instead of water, and supply fuel in the form of billiard-ball sized pebbles instead of fuel rods. PBR energy is anticipated to be less than for natural gas.





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