Tags: NRC | Sees | Renaissance | Nuclear | Power

NRC Sees Renaissance of Nuclear Power

Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00 AM

MIAMI -- Energy companies plan to file permit requests in the next two years to build 27 new nuclear reactors in the United States, according to a U.S. regulator who said Tuesday his agency expects a "nuclear renaissance."

Most of the reactors would be added to existing nuclear power plants but two or three would be at new sites, said Luis Reyes, executive director for operations at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Based on indications from the power companies, the agency has added about 200 engineers to help process the expected flood of permit applications, Reyes said at a Miami law enforcement conference to combat nuclear terrorism.

"We haven't had any new applications in a quarter of a century, since Three Mile Island," Reyes told Reuters during a break in the conference.

He attributed the renewed interest in nuclear power partly to rising prices for oil and natural gas and concerns about importing those fuels from nations not always friendly to the United States.

There also have been significant improvements in safety and reliability in the newest generation of nuclear reactors used overseas, said Reyes, who was headed to Finland to examine one. The new designs have fewer parts and are simpler to operate, he said.

"More than 90 percent of the time, the plants are reliable and running," Reyes said.

Recent legislation has provided incentives for power companies to invest the billions of dollars required to build new reactors, he said. It also streamlined the permit process while maintaining environmental impact studies, he said.

"There are a lot of factors that are coming together. It's been like a nuclear renaissance," Reyes said.

The United States has 104 nuclear reactors that provide about 20 percent of the nation's electricity. If power demand keeps growing at the current rate, the United States will need 50 more reactors to maintain that percentage by 2050, Reyes said.

Growing awareness of greenhouse gases and global warming has also prompted a revival of global interest in nuclear energy.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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MIAMI -- Energy companies plan to file permit requests in the next two years to build 27 new nuclear reactors in the United States, according to a U.S. regulator who said Tuesday his agency expects a "nuclear renaissance." Most of the reactors would be added to existing...
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2007-00-12
Tuesday, 12 June 2007 12:00 AM
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