February 11, 2012

Two New Nuclear Reactors To Be Built In Georgia

Maggie Koerth-Baker, writing for Boing Boing:

“Yesterday, the United States’ Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the construction of the first two nuclear reactors to be built in this country since 1978. They’re both part of the same power plant complex, near Augusta, Georgia.”

These reactors are two of just five to be completed this decade. The Scientific American article Maggie quotes goes on to explain that US electricity demand isn’t growing, making nuclear plants an expensive political football in the face of cheaper and arguably safer natural gas-fired generation plants.

Safer, that is, unless you live in a community in which natural gas is recovered by fracking. There’s no argument once the fuels reach their respective plant, though. Natural gas burns cleanly, leaving no hazardous spent fuel to be discarded.

I’d argue with the notion that electrical energy demand isn’t growing, though. True, demand has decreased over the past couple of years in a recessionary economy, but is expected to rise by 10% over the coming quarter-century.

As a parenthetical issue, the switch from incandescent lighting is likely having an effect on the demand curve, too. This effect will no doubt increase as the remaining incandescents are replaced with newer bulbs. The coming era of LED lighting will make switching from incandescents safer, too, making no use of mercury as do florescent bulbs.