Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has a problem. His Labor Party government wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 60 percent from 2000 levels by 2050, but opposes building nuclear power plants– the one clean, abundant, and affordable energy source known to this planet. Ziggy Switkowski, head of the nation’s main nuclear research institute, says that will soon change:
As more and more Australians get involved in the whole climate change debate, as they learn about what’s happening around the world where the uptake of nuclear power is increasing quite strongly, they’ll accept the attraction of nuclear power and over time embrace it.”
Australia isn’t the only country. China, as evidenced by the pictures below, is quite literally laying the groundwork for a rapid expansion in nuclear power with 14 plants under construction and 10 more slated to begin construction before the end of 2009.
There has been discussion about building new nuclear plants in the United States, both adding reactors where some already exist as well new ‘green’ sites, but these are certainly not your ‘shovel-ready’ projects. Unlike China, where they struck a deal with Westinghouse in December 2006 and are already well on their way, The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) estimates that it needs a minimum of 42 months to issue the design, site, and construction/operation licenses required for reactor construction to begin. The NRC, after so many years with no applications for new reactors, does not have a proven process for efficiently licensing new reactors.
A fast-track program, laid out by Heritage’s nuclear expert Jack Spencer, would have the U.S. building new plants on a timeline comparable to those of China and Japan– without compromising on public safety and security. We’ve accepted and embraced nuclear power before in this country. A radical environmental movement, over-regulation, and too much government intervention stopped, it but we still have 104 reactors providing 20 percent of America’s electricity emissions-free. If the market says nuclear is economically viable, it’s time we accept and embrace it again.