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America’s Nuclear Reactors Can’t Survive Without Government Handouts

Slashdot reader Socguy shares an article from FiveThirtyEight:
There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they’re responsible for producing about 20% of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren’t being built. And the ones still operational can’t compete with other sources of power on price… without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion….
[I]t’s the cost of upkeep that’s prohibitive. Things do fall apart — especially things exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Maintenance and repair, upgrades and rejuvenation all take a lot of capital investment. And right now, that means spending lots of money on power plants that aren’t especially profitable… Combine age and economic misfortune, and you get shuttered power plants. Twelve nuclear reactors have closed in the past 22 years. Another dozen have formally announced plans to close by 2025.
A professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University points out that nuclear power is America’s single largest source of carbon emissions-free electricity — though since 1996, only one new plant has opened in America, and at least 10 other new reactor projects have been canceled in the past decade.
The article also describes two more Illinois reactors that avoided closure only after the state legislature offered new subsidies. “But as long as natural gas is cheap, the industry can’t do without the handouts.”


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