The ‘n’ word is definitely back in fashion. There are at least five large partnerships in the United States that are preparing to build new nuclear power plants, though all of them are keeping a rather low profile. The five identified efforts include a consortium led by Excelon that is investigating an early site permit at the site of the Clinton power station, one led by Dominion Resources that is investigating the possibility of adding one or two units to their North Anna site, one led by Entergy that is seeking early approval for new stations at its Grand Gulf site, a Duke Power project to seek a combined operating license (COL) to build and operate a new station without specifying the station location, and a project led by Southern Company to seek an early site permit sometime in 2006.
The President emphasized his support for expanding the use of “safe, clean nuclear energy” in his 2005 State of the Union address and the US Export-Import bank recently announced that it would support Westinghouse’s bid to supply four new reactors to China by offering a 5 billion dollar loan commitment. The loan would come into effect should the venerable circle W win in what is currently a three company competition to supply a rapidly expanding Chinese power demand. (Note: Westinghouse’s insider nickname is based on its distinctive corporate logo.)
Finland has begun the detailed design and construction phase for its fifth nuclear power station after an exhaustive analysis of all available technologies to supply its growing population with reliable electricity. In New Zealand, a group of farmers recently demanded that the country’s major electricity supplier investigate the possibility of building nuclear power plants to supply the northern coastal cities instead of building long transmission lines.
Eskom, one of the largest electric utility companies in the world, along with its partner BNFL are the major investors in a huge project run by PBMR (Pty) Ltd. The partnership is well on its way to building the first unit of its Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, an exciting new technology that may revolutionize the power generation and distribution business. The current project status report states that the South African organization intends to build 4000 – 5000 MWe of PBMR capacity. The plants are about 1/6 the size of traditional light water reactors, generating about 165 MW of electric power, so the partnership would need to build a series of as many as 30 plants to fill that single need. These modular, simple, smaller plants might be perfect for the numerous markets that cannot support the 1000 MW units that nuclear companies have traditionally preferred to sell. These plants might be just the ticket to satisfy the demands of the New Zealand farmers. See our February 2001 Atomic Insights story about the project at an earlier stage.
All of the above is ample justification for our decision to once again begin offering more or less regular insights into what we believe is a true world changing, disruptive technology. A more personal indication was my recent success in holding the attention of a very environmentally active young person during a Friday happy hour. There was no fear, only interest and curiosity.
Atomic Insights has some exciting plans to keep you up to date on official developments, behind the scenes maneuvers, technical advances, plant design information, atomic history, nuclear politics, and whatever else seems interesting with regard to atomic energy. Stay tuned and hang onto your hats.
One more piece of advice – if you are unemployed, thinking about a career change, or just starting out in the world you cannot go wrong if you take steps to prepare yourself for nuclear employment. There is already a growing competition among employers for qualified employees, and as the manufacturing effort gets into full swing there is going to be a bidding war for the best people. Even those with moderate education and training will have a place if they are careful, detail oriented and willing to work hard. Go nuke and never regret it.