U.S. a Nonstarter in Nuclear Power
Created on July 14, 2008
- To see 10 principles to guide U.S. nuclear policy, click here.
- For Ed Feulner's op-ed on getting serious about energy, click
- For Jack Spencer's paper on managing used nuclear fuel, click
- For a paper on lessons of nuclear power in other nations, click
U.S. a Nonstarter in Global Move to Nuclear
The United States could remain cemented in the second tier of
commercial producers of nuclear energy despite soaring utility
bills and $4-a-gallon gasoline. Or our leaders could take action,
for the sake of the nation's economy and security, to promote the
safe growth of nuclear power.
The Heritage Foundation reminds Congress and the president that right
now, European and Asian companies are hard at work to meet the
demands of a growing market for nuclear energy. Meanwhile, many of
their U.S. counterparts have lost intellectual expertise and
competitive edge in the nuclear arena.
Washington puts the right policies in place, the U.S. will remain a
nonstarter when it comes to new nuclear energy," Heritage senior
with 104 operating nuclear reactors, hasn't seen a new reactor
ordered since the mid-1970s. We currently don't have the industrial
infrastructure to build a single reactor, Spencer notes, yet
carbon-capping legislation contemplated by Congress to counter
global warming assumes construction of 50 to 200 reactors over 25
By contrast, current and planned reactors among our economic
- China: 11 reactors now, seven
being built, 85 planned.
- Russia: 31 now, seven being
built, 35 planned.
- India: 17 now, six being
built, 19 planned.
- South Africa: two now, 36
planned (equivalent to 21 conventional plants).
- Ukraine: 15 now, 15 planned.
- Japan: 55 now, six being
built, six planned.
- South Korea: 20 now, three
being built; six planned.
- Brazil: two now, six
In America, 17 entities have begun the permitting process to build
up to 30 new reactors. However, none has begun construction.
Political barriers and policy shortcomings seriously threaten
the prospect that many, if any, ever will be built.
The next president and Congress will have to make fundamental
policy changes to nurture a sustainable, market-based nuclear
industry. Nuclear is undoubtedly a key component of energy
independence, Heritage President Edwin J. Feulner says.
"We'll need more juice in the decades ahead, and the best way to
provide that is with nuclear power," Feulner writes. "But federal
policy has crippled the market."
U.S. energy policy, Heritage urges, should be based on the
creativity of free enterprise. The president and lawmakers
can't reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, much less
limit carbon output, without limiting or removing regulatory and
tax barriers to innovation. Those strategies also are best for the
Take one example: The federal government has failed to meet its
legal responsibility since the early 1980s to provide for the safe
disposal of used nuclear fuel, all the while stifling
"Given nuclear power's poten­tial to help solve many of the
nation's energy prob­lems, now is the time to break the impasse
over managing used nuclear fuel," Spencer writes in an important paper outlining a
free-market approach. "The federal government has proven incapable
of fulfilling its obligations to dis­pose of the fuel. The time
has come for the government to step aside and allow utilities,
nuclear technology companies, and consumers to do it.
"Developing such a system," he adds, "would put the United States
well on its way to re-establishing itself as a global leader in