The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to grant an operating license to the Tennessee Valley Authority for a new nuclear reactor marks the first such decision in decades. Within the next decade two new nuclear units in Georgia and two at V.C. Summer here in South Carolina will join Watts Bar.
These third-generation plants are designed to be more cost-effective and to have even greater safety margins. Right now we need to get over the hump in building these plants so we can learn from the experience and standardize their construction to make them even more economical.
Further development, however, has been slowed by the abundance of natural gas. With no penalty for emitting pollutants and greenhouse gases, natural gas will displace nuclear and other clean, alternative energy sources. We have made a good start at dealing with air pollution and climate change in retiring coal-fired plants and building wind, solar and nuclear facilities. If we force those burning natural gas to pay the true cost, we could continue progress in protecting the environment.
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