Are America’s nuclear power plants running out of money?

In New Jersey and elsewhere, the surprising American energy revolution is putting tremendous financial pressure on operators of nuclear power plants across the country.

Nuclear power plant. Unlike fossil fuel power plants, the only substance leaving the cooling towers of nuclear power plants is water vapor, which does not pollute the air or cause "global warming. (Photo via Wikipedia entry on nuclear power)

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2017 — Nuclear power in the U.S. has in many ways been a third-rail issue since the first nuclear power plant went operational. The reasons why are legion:

  • Government rules and regulations have made the construction of new nuclear power plants prohibitively expensive.
  • For generations now, dueling governments and public and private sector antagonists have battled among themselves in a lengthy and successful effort to make sure nuclear wastes from these power plants are not stored in their backyards, leading to a building safety crisis.
  • Environmentalist extremists have battled both sides of the issue, at times falsely raising fears that near meltdowns or actual meltdowns of nuclear power plant reactors would result in giant mushroom clouds and the obliteration of entire cities and states. Yet other environmental activists are extolling nuclear powered electricity as the cleanest and safest of all possible solutions to meet growing energy demands.

Thanks to all the above, inevitable cost overruns at existing nuclear power plants have become a political and economic hot potato. Who will absorb these massive deficits? The Federal government? State governments? The utility companies themselves? Or—perhaps the favored government and industry solution—the American consumer and American taxpayers.

The utility industry, once pushed to build nuclear power plants by the Federal government, has subsequently found itself battling Federal, state and local governments and well-financed special interest antagonists to transform nuclear energy into a cost-effective solution over many decades. But recent events have conspired, at least for now, to throw another monkey wrench into these efforts.

American ingenuity has been the driving force behind an unexpected American energy renaissance, due to newly economical methods for fracking horizontal shale formations to unlock vast U.S. oil and natural gas reserves. This surprising energy revolution is putting even greater pressure on operators of nuclear power plants across the country, as operators of these plants are gradually shifting into crisis mode.

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