NuclearSectors

The nuclear power industry is trying to come back from its own abyss. With natural gas prices volatile and people anxious about climate change, the nuclear power industry is touting its technology as a way to meet the nation's growing energy needs without emitting more greenhouse gases. In order to provide our members with the latest regulatory changes and other useful information, resources and training opportunities, this industry page will keep our members updated on new regulation, enhance their knowledge of the industry and their ability to perform their job more effectively within the new global marketplace.

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Nuclear power supplies 19% of total U.S. electricity production with essentially zero greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Renewables like wind and solar do not provide reliable base load power, and any additional loss of nuclear-generating capacity would result in increased carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Preserving the U.S. nuclear reactor fleet is a critical element in the transition to a low-carbon future.
  • Since 2012, four power companies have announced the retirement of five nuclear reactors in the United States.
  • Amid increasing debate over nuclear power in countries such as Japan and Germany, these announcements have led some Wall Street analysts and academics to forecast a wave of U.S. reactor retirements in the coming years.
  • If these predictions are correct, the result will worsen climate change and lead to the loss of good U.S. jobs.

In 30 states, nuclear energy facilities supply low-carbon electricity to 1 out of every 5 homes and businesses. The continued operation of nuclear power plants is critical to ensuring stable, reliable and affordable energy. Nuclear power is one of the few sources that can produce large volumes of electricity 24/7. However, issues with fuel disposal and potential accidents are obstacles to expansion.

The continued operation of nuclear power plants is critical to ensuring stable, reliable and affordable energy.

Americans support nuclear energy

  • A recent public opinion poll found that 86% approved of license renewals for nuclear power plants that continue to meet federal safety standards.
  • Seventy-seven percent agreed that companies should prepare now so that new nuclear power plants could be built in the next decade.

An already safe technology must be made demonstrably safer, less expensive and more secure against the threats of terrorism.

Good public policy involves balancing risks

  • Above all, we must base our energy policy on a scientifically valid appreciation of real-world risks, not on scare tactics.
  • With many nuclear plants nearing the end of their useful lives, we must build new generators.
    • At present, there are five new reactors under construction expected to come on line between 2016 and 2018.
    • However, replacement is not keeping up with closures of numerous nuclear reactors.
  • Increased nuclear power generation must be a key component to an American energy policy that lessens our dependence on foreign oil and reduces the output of greenhouse gases.

The UWUA urges Congress to include nuclear power as a significant component of any comprehensive climate control and energy legislation. The UWUA calls on Congress and the Obama Administration to encourage the building of new plants through guaranteed loans and other legislative and regulatory means.

  • Most of the 100 reactors in the U.S. are expected to be granted license extensions from 40 to 60 years.
  • This justifies significant capital expenditure in upgrading systems and components and extra performance margins.
  • There is widespread agreement that license extensions up to 80 years may be needed, and this prospect is driving research on the safety and reliability in older plants.

The UWUA calls on Congress to support the research and updates needed to extend the life of America’s aging nuclear plants.

The UWUA commends the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) orders for immediate post-Fukushima safety enhancements, which are likely to cost about $100 million across the whole U.S. fleet. The first order requires the addition of equipment at all plants to respond to loss of power and to maintain containment integrity. The second order requires improved water level and temperature instrumentation on used fuel ponds. The third order applies to the 33 BWRs with early containment designs and requires reliable hardened containment vents. Additionally, the UWUA supports the industry’s proposal to set up regional emergency response centers under NRC oversight.

The UWUA demands that all nuclear power plant operators maintain a strong safety culture, utilizing the best industry standards to achieve operating excellence. Safety, production, and cost control are necessary goals for the operation of nuclear plants. These outcomes are complementary, with most plants achieving high levels of safety, impressive production, and competitive costs.

The U.S. needs to develop a permanent waste repository. Safely securing spent fuel should be a public safety priority of the highest degree. The UWUA urges Congress and the Obama Administration to take immediate action. The cost of fixing America’s nuclear vulnerabilities may be high, but the price of doing too little is incalculable.

—From the UWUA Constitution