Magazine article USA TODAY

Nuclear Reactors Endanger World

Magazine article USA TODAY

Nuclear Reactors Endanger World

Article excerpt

The U.S. makes widespread use of the same aging reactors that are in crisis in Japan. Five of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi 1 site are General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors. including Unit 1, which suffered an explosion that destroyed part of its containment building. and Unit 3. which uses plutonium-based MOX fuel and has been the subject of major efforts to cool the reactor.

"Some 23 of the operating reactors in the U.S. use the GE Mark I design. All but two of these began commercial operation between 1971 and 1976," notes Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved 20-year license extensions for 18 of these aging GE Mark I reactors. Two applications are curently under review: three reactors have not filed for license renewal. When the reactor designs are the same, and the reactor's ages are the same. comparisons seem more than appropriate--indeed, it would be irresponsible not to understand what lessons may be learned from the Japanese experience that would apply to so many aging U.S. reactors that are still in use."

The nuclear catastrophe in Japan illustrates in vivid terms the risks to U.S. taxpayers and ratepayers of taking on even more of the risk of paying for nuclear power, asserts Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at the Vermont Law School, Stratford. "For decades, Wall Street hasn't been willing to invest in new reactors because of their enormous cost and risk. Obviously, Wall Street has it right.

"This is yet another example of how a multibillion dollar investment can turn into a multibillion dollar liability within minutes. The only way that new reactors will be built in the U.S. is if the economic risk is put upon the taxpayer through Federal loan guarantees and upon ratepayers through advanced cost recovery.

Pres. Barack Obama has requested an additional $36,000,000,000 in loan guarantee authority for new reactors in Fiscal Year 2012. If authorized, this would make a total of $54,500,000,000 in nuclear loan guarantees. Of the currently authorized $18,500,000,000 in nuclear loan guarantees, $8,300,000,000 has been allocated to Southern Company and its partners for two proposed reactors in Georgia. …

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