The Economics of Nuclear Power

Can we sustain it? A proposed state tax extension sparks new discussion.

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A nuclear reactor schematic. It generates energy, but how about dollars?
Photo:Panther (Wikimedia Commons)
Keith Phaneuf.
Photo:Chion Wolf
The Economics of Nuclear Power
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The Economics of Nuclear Power

The recent early retirements of four US nuclear reactors, because they’re too expensive to keep up, has some wondering how much longer the two working Millstone reactors in Waterford, Connecticut might last.

In Japan, the cost of cleaning up the Fukushima plant, damaged in the 2011 earthquake, has risen to $50 billion dollars...far more than the government had allowed for. Radiation is still leaking into the ocean there. Earlier this month, a former supervisor at Indian Point power plant in upstate New York was charged with lying to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and falsifying test results so the plant wouldn’t have to shut down.

Meanwhile, a week before, the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth Massachusetts powered down because the cooling waters coming from the ocean got too warm.

A similar thing happened last summer at the Millstone nuclear power plant in Waterford. It actually shut down for 12 days. It was the first time a US plant had been shut down because of high water temperatures. Millstone is now looking to raise the allowable temperature to 80 degrees.

Now, a new report suggests that economic factors might be the downfall of Millstone, and several other US nuclear facilities. It raises important questions about the viability of nuclear power moving forward, and about where Connecticut would get its power. (Now nearly half comes from Millstone.) 

Our guest says nuclear power never had the next big “renaissance” that was expected, and that commercial nuclear technology has been this way from the beginning. We’ll talk about this report, and with an official from Millstone about our burning questions – Where We Live – right after this news.