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America’s nuclear industry titan is teetering

As the industry struggles, is it ‘time to recognize the nuclear show’s over’?, LA Times,  17 Apr 17, There was a time when nuclear power was considered to be the bulwark of America’s energy future.

Now the titan appears to be teetering. Westinghouse Electric Co. — long considered the leader in nuclear power development — filed for bankruptcy protection in late March. The move puts in jeopardy the completion of two nuclear plants in the Southeast that had been heralded as proof the industry’s future was still vibrant.

The news added to a long list of nuclear’s woes:

  • California is on the verge of eliminating its last remaining nuclear power plant.
  • Nuclear waste, stranded in places such as the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, isn’t going away any time soon.
  • The industry is still reeling from the 2011 tsunami that hit the Fukushima plant in Japan, which prompted some countries such as Germany to turn away from nuclear power…….

Even the industry’s biggest supporters acknowledged the Westinghouse news was bad.

“I’m freaked out, honestly,” said Michael Shellenberger, president of [Ed. – nuclear front group] Berkeley-based Environmental Progress, a group that considers nuclear power an essential element to battle climate change……..

even before the Westinghouse announcement, nuclear energy faced growing competition from natural gas and renewable sources.

Utilities have increasingly turned to natural gas, which emits half the amount of greenhouse gases as coal. And thanks to the booming shale market, natural gas can be extracted in burgeoning supplies at a price that has remained consistently low for years.

Renewable sources such as wind and solar also have grown while their costs have dropped. That’s left nuclear struggling to just hold onto its 20% share of the nation’s energy mix.“The bottom line is that nuclear was already having problems and in decline,” said Andy Smith, senior analyst covering utility stocks for the investment firm Edward Jones.

Bedeviled at Diablo The Diablo Canyon facility near San Luis Obispo is the last nuclear power plant operating in California — but maybe not for long.The plant’s operator, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., announced plans last summer to shut down the site for good by 2025, blaming greater renewable sources in the state’s power mix, developments in energy efficiency and battery storage as well as lower demand.

In the meantime, the list of nuclear closures keeps growing. A plant in Nebraska shut down at the end of last year, and as many as 10 other reactors are proposed to go offline in the coming years, including the two at Diablo. Ohio’s two nuclear plants are in danger of going down.

The country’s nuclear fleet is also getting older, with 99 reactors having an average age of 35 years old……

April 19, 2017 - Posted by | general

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