Environmental and Energy Study Institute

A global nuclear renaissance: Is the United States missing out?


The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) invites you to a briefing to examine the renewed interest in nuclear power globally and its prospects in the United States.  Demand for energy coupled with the need to develop low-carbon sources has led some nations to focus on nuclear power.  But even before the recent financial crisis, issues dealing with material shortages, untested designs and high default rates made nuclear energy a risky undertaking for private investors.  This briefing will address developments in the nuclear industry in Europe, projections for new nuclear power in the United States, and the financial risks associated with investing in nuclear power to address the urgent climate situation.

Speakers for this event include:

  • Stephen Thomas,  Professor of Energy Policy, Public Services International Research Unit in the Business School of the University of Greenwich, UK
  • Peter Bradford, Adjunct Professor, Vermont Law School; former Chair, New York State Public Service Commission and Maine Public Utilities Commission; former Commissioner, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the U.S. Department of Energy can issue taxpayer-funded loan guarantees for advanced energy technologies, including nuclear reactors. However, the Congressional Budget Office measures the likely failure rate for new reactors in the United States as 'very high - well above 50%.'  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has said that no new reactors will be licensed before 2012.  Even when licensed, no new reactors are expected to produce electricity before 2016 at the earliest.  Several U.S. utilities have cancelled or deferred plans for new nuclear reactors due to rising costs and lack of demand.  Likewise, progress has been slow overseas with cost overruns and a deepening economic recession.  The global financial crisis has made capital for high risk, multibillion dollar projects difficult to find.  Policymakers are faced with weighing the risks and costs of energy technologies, including new nuclear power, as they make choices for the investment of limited taxpayer dollars.

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