nuclear energy in the US

(a nuclear energy game, seen on Alte Schoenhauser Allee)

According to an article in the technology review the company NRG Energy “filed the first application for new nuclear reactors in the United States since 1978.”

Moreover according to that article the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), in Washington, DC, expects to receive four more applications this year to build and operate nuclear reactors, and another fifteen in 2008“, which indicates that there seems to be a renaissance of nuclear energy underway in the US – a fact which looks as being affirmed by NRG Energy spokesman Dave Knox:

“The purpose of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 was to help jump-start the revitalization of nuclear infrastructure, and that’s what it’s doing”

However what gave me the most headaches was this sentence in the article:

“..six [nuclear utilities] plan to use French nuclear-technology giant Areva’s EPR, which is not yet certified by NRC but is under construction in France and Finland. A joint venture of Electricit√© de France and U.S. utility Constellation Energy plans to build the first EPR in the United States.

The EPR is a reactor type which can be loaded with a high percentage of MOX fuel. MOX is a means to re-use plutonium. Plutonium has to be bred from Uran 238, hence MOX (re)-uses among others the plutonium remaining in used reactor fuel, the plutonium from old nuclear weapons or -in particular- the plutonium from fast breeders. Thus among others building high-percentage MOX fuel reactors may create a new demand for plutonium – if we forget about proliferation and other risks involved with plutonium for the moment…

According to an informative chart published in the national geographic which tackles the the question of how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by displaying handy stabilization wedges an increased production of nuclear power to three times today’s capacity reduces emissions by the same amount as e.g. a reduction which one gets by increasing efficiency in heating, cooling, lighting and appliances by 25 percent.

Given the above facts and given my experiences with badly built american houses (e.g. it is not fun to have 0.5cm clefts (!) along doors at -17 Celsius etc. etc. (I can tell you a lot of stories!)) one should maybe think about how to raise the 25 percent efficiency wedge to a -perhaps- 50 percent efficiency wedge rather than to think about increasing nuclear energy.

->EPR paper construction kit
->interactive EPR

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