WASHINGTON — After three decades without starting a single new plant, the American nuclear power industry is getting ready to build again.
When the industry first said several years ago that it would resume building plants, deep skepticism greeted the claim. Not since 1973 had anybody in the United States ordered a nuclear plant that was actually built, and the obstacles to a new generation of plants seemed daunting.
But now, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 21 companies say they will seek permission to build 34 power plants, from New York to Texas. Factories are springing up in Indiana and Louisiana to build reactor parts. Workers are clearing a site in Georgia to put in reactors. Starting in January, millions of electric customers in Florida will be billed several dollars a month to finance four new reactors.
The Newport News Daily Press story we linked below has lots of detail, too.
As interest has grown in the United States to build more nuclear plants, which generate concerns about waste but do not emit pollutants, a new process has been put into place to make them easier to build. A key part of the process is approval for standardized designs that can be matched easily to plans for a specific site and utility operator.
AREVA has already spent $200 million on the design and certification of the EPR reactor.
The main players vying to get their designs approved are AREVA, General Electric, Westinghouse and Mitsubishi. Dominion Virginia Power, which runs a nuclear plant in Surry County, is far along toward building a new reactor at North Anna outside Richmond. Dominion has chosen the design and is buying parts for its reactor from GE Energy, which will be a major competitor for AREVA Newport News.
The AREVA plant in Lynchburg is one of four in the country that manufacture nuclear fuel rods, and AREVA operates another one in Richland, Wash.
The deal is a coup for Newport News, which finds itself in the enviable position of adding large numbers of engineering and advanced manufacturing jobs amid a troubled economy. Canon announced in May that it was investing in a $625 million expansion of its Newport News plant and adding over 1,000 high-paying jobs.
Consider the possibilities, Virginia as the nation’s leader in nuclear power. Perhaps the Areva/Northrop Grumman news will give a boost to uranium mining in the southwest part of the state, as visionaries recognize the big picture of American energy security.
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