Nuclear

NUCLEAR

For the last 30 years, nuclear power has consistently provided around 20 percent of annual electricity generation in the United States, and half of the country’s carbon-free energy. But while efficiency updates increase output, allowing fewer reactors to provide the same amount of electricity, the average nuclear reactor is almost 40 years old and more than a dozen have been shuttered. Just one new reactor has come online since 1996, though two more are expected in by 2022. For a host of reasons, the legacy of nuclear power in the United States includes years-long delays in construction, power plants abandoned before they were even completed, and massive cost overruns that are passed on to the public.

Early in 2020, though, the federal Department of Energy announced its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, which calls for construction of two new prototype nuclear reactors within seven years. It may or may not happen, depending on who one asks: as the cost of renewable energy continues to fall and natural gas remains abundant and inexpensive, new nuclear reactors simply may not be cost-competitive.

Additionally, in April 2020, the DOE announced its Strategy to Restore American Nuclear Energy Leadership, which includes a plan to increase domestic uranium mining and establish a national uranium reserve.

The coming decade will be pivotal to nuclear power’s future in the United States. Supporters cite climate change as one very important reason to ramp up construction of new reactors, as it is ever more critical to prevent the greenhouse gases which burning still more fossil fuels would produce. Opponents point to concern about the security of nuclear material in an age of terrorism, the very long-term storage of radioactive waste (thousands of years), and the fear of an accidental release of radiation, as happened in Japan in 2011, in the former Soviet Union in 1986, and in Pennsylvania in 1979.

CURRENT NEWS

Can solar and wind ever match the rollout rates of nuclear power in the 1970s and 1980s?

By Hannah Ritchie 05/15/24
The speed of nuclear deployment in the 1970s and 1980s was seriously impressive. I was reminded of this a few months ago when a reader sent me the following chart from a 2016 paper by…
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Congress passes Russian uranium import ban, unlocking $2.7B to expand US nuclear fuel production

By Brian Martucci 05/06/24
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to ban imports of Russian uranium. The bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in December, now awaits President Biden’s signature.
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Once Unthinkable Nuclear Plant Revival Is a Reality in US Shift

By Will Wade 04/29/24
A month after the US offered $1.5 billion to restart one shuttered nuclear power plant, there’s a growing sense among officials in the industry and government that it may not be the last.
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Indian Point owner sues NY to overturn law banning radiological water in Hudson River

By Thomas C. Zambito 04/18/24
The owners of the shuttered Indian Point nuclear power plant sued the state of New York today, claiming a law banning the discharge of radiological water into the Hudson River is a “blatant infringement” of…
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How to reopen a nuclear power plant

By Casey Crownhart 04/03/24
A shut-down nuclear power plant in Michigan could get a second life thanks to a $1.52 billion loan from the US Department of Energy. If successful, it will be the first time a shuttered nuclear…
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Lawsuit challenges $1 billion in federal funding to sustain California’s last nuclear power plant

By Michael R. Blood 04/03/24
An environmental group has sued the U.S. Energy Department over its decision to award over $1 billion to help keep California’s last nuclear power plant running beyond a planned closure that was set for 2025.…
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Michigan nuclear plant aims to be first ever to reopen in US

By Eric Wesoff 03/28/24
Holtec, a manufacturer of nuclear reactor equipment, has an unprecedented plan to restart the shuttered Palisades Nuclear Plant in Michigan. Thanks to a conditional loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office,…
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Small Nuclear Reactors May Be Coming to Texas, Boosted by Interest From Gov. Abbott – Inside Climate News

By Emily Foxhall 03/27/24
Gov. Greg Abbott took the stage at the University of Texas at Austin last August to discuss building up an energy source in the state. Unlike the oil and gas industry that Abbott often promotes,…
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The Advanced Nuclear Industry Would Like to Power Your Data Center

By Matthew Zeitlin 03/22/24
Artificial intelligence combined with still-growing internet and smartphone use will likely require a game-changing investment in data centers — one that its already showing up in huge projected increases for electricity demand across the country.…
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Security and climate change drive a return to nuclear energy as over 30 nations sign summit pledge

By Raf Casert 03/21/24
In the shadow of a massive monument glorifying nuclear power, over 30 nations from around the world pledged to use the controversial energy source to help achieve a climate-neutral globe while providing countries with an…
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China’s Nuclear Energy Expansion Is Getting Even Faster

By Dan Murtaugh 03/15/24
Countries trying to replicate China’s boom in renewable electricity might also want to take a page out of its nuclear power playbook. Beijing is able to approve as many as 10 new reactors a year,…
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What Does Amazon Want With Nuclear?

By Matthew Zeitlin 03/13/24
When Talen Energy, which owns a 90% interest in the Susquehanna nuclear power plant in Northeastern Pennsylvania, announced it was selling a data center site adjacent to its power plant to Amazon Web Services, it…
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KEY RESOURCES

Climate Change: The Existential Crisis & Challenge Of Our Time

06/02/23
Director Oliver Stone passionately presents the possibility of meeting the challenge through the power of nuclear energy.

Advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)

05/09/23
Advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are a key part of the Department’s goal to develop safe, clean, and affordable nuclear power options. The advanced SMRs currently under development in the United States represent a variety…

The Future History of Nuclear Fusion

04/21/23
Letter from 2073: Fifty years ago, fusion energy was a ludicrous pipe dream. Now it powers everything. Dr. Tritium takes you back to the pioneers of nuclear prosperity.

Mapped: Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

09/24/22
The United States is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, representing more than 30% of the world’s nuclear power generation. America has 92 reactors in operation, providing about 20% of the country’s electricity. The…

Consent-Based Siting

08/02/22
Management of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste is the Department of Energy’s responsibility. This includes finding sites to store and dispose of the spent nuclear fuel. DOE is committed to a…

What is Nuclear Fusion?

03/31/22
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two light atomic nuclei combine to form a single heavier one while releasing massive amounts of energy. Fusion reactions take place in a state of matter called plasma…

Critique of NYSERDA’s Draft Plan

03/10/22
This document is a critique of the “New York State Climate Action Council’s Draft Scoping Plan” prepared by NYSERDA with the assistance of E3 and Abt Associates, herein called the NYSERDA Draft Plan.

No, nuclear power is not actually ‘dangerous’

11/19/21
The global heating catastrophe being fostered by humanity’s proclivity to burn fossil fuels for energy is an emergency. An all-hands-on-deck emergency. An employ-every-tool-in-the-toolbox emergency. Despite that, a myth persists that blocks humankind’s use of the…

Backgrounder on the Three Mile Island Accident

11/05/21
The Three Mile Island Unit 2 reactor, near Middletown, Pa., partially melted down on March 28, 1979. This was the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, although its small radioactive…

What is nuclear waste, and what do we do with it?

11/05/21
Like all industries and energy-producing technologies, the use of nuclear energy results in some waste products. There are three types of nuclear waste, classified according to their radioactivity: low-, intermediate-, and high-level. The vast majority…

A Nuclear Innovation Company

11/01/21
With the growing demand for electricity, TerraPower entered the nuclear energy arena because its founders saw clean energy as the pathway to lift billions out of poverty. The company has since expanded that vision to…

Putting Nuclear Power In Perspective: An Interview with David Watson

10/07/21
"Beating climate change is hard enough without taking away one of the best low-carbon tools we have. It’s time to talk about nuclear." --David Watson

Storage and Disposal of Radioactive Waste

05/01/21
Most low-level radioactive waste (LLW) is typically sent to land-based disposal immediately following its packaging for long-term management. This means that for the majority (~90% by volume) of all of the waste types produced by…

How Advanced Nuclear Got on the Map

04/08/21
Advanced nuclear could play a critical role in getting the domestic and global electricity sector to net-zero emissions by 2050, decarbonizing industrial processes, and producing green hydrogen. These contributions from new nuclear technologies are possible,…

Nuclear Power is the Most Reliable Energy Source and It’s Not Even Close

03/24/21
Nuclear energy is America’s work horse. It’s been rolling up its sleeves for six decades now to provide constant, reliable, carbon-free power to millions of Americans. Just how reliable has nuclear energy been? It has…

Civilian Nuclear Power

02/22/21
A Report to the president-1962

Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program

08/14/20
Advanced nuclear energy systems hold enormous potential to lower emissions, create new jobs, and build an even stronger economy. The Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) will speed the demonstration of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with U.S.…

The Health and Environmental Impact of Uranium Mining

06/26/20
Nuclear is an efficient and powerful energy source with life cycle carbon emissions that are as low as some renewable sources. While not as popular as liquid and coal, nuclear power plants still generate a…

Three Mile Island Accident

03/01/20
In 1979 at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in USA a cooling malfunction caused part of the core to melt in the #2 reactor. The TMI-2 reactor was destroyed. Some radioactive gas was released…

A beginner’s guide to the debate over nuclear power and climate change

12/19/19
Guess what? You don’t have to be “pro-nuclear” or “anti-nuclear.”

What is Nuclear Energy?

10/12/17
How does nuclear energy work? Is radiation a risk? Find out the difference between nuclear fission and fusion, how uranium fuels the process, and the pros and cons of this alternative energy source...

How the US Nuclear Debate Transcends Traditional Party Lines

08/22/17
Democrat and Republican policy experts weigh in on how to value reliable and low-carbon energy resources.

MORE NEWS

U.S. Seeks to Boost Nuclear Power After Decades of Inertia

By Brad Plumer   03/01/24  
The House this week overwhelmingly passed legislation meant to speed up the development of a new generation of nuclear power plants, the latest sign that a once-contentious source of energy is now attracting broad political…
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Nuclear? Perhaps!

By David Roberts   02/21/24  
Nuclear power is a subject that elicits a lot of strong emotions. (Anyone who's ever written about it online will be laughing at the understatement.) Depending on who you listen to, it is either the…
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Second new Georgia reactor begins splitting atoms in key step to making electricity

By Jeff Amy   02/14/24  
A nuclear power plant in Georgia has begun splitting atoms in the second of its two new reactors, Georgia Power said Wednesday, a key step toward providing carbon-free electricity.
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Is Nuclear Energy Having a Renaissance?

By Nicole Pollack   02/12/24  
For a while there, nuclear energy looked like it was on its way out. After taking off post-World War II, it lost momentum toward the dawn of the 21st century, when sagging public support and…
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Donalds Leads Colleagues In Advocating For Historic American Nuclear Energy Project

01/30/24  
Yesterday, Congressman Byron Donalds (R-FL) sent a letter to the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, seeking to expedite the historic revitalization of Palisades Nuclear Power Plant with safe, reliable, and efficient nuclear energy technology.
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Biden administration finalizes a $1.1 billion aid package for California’s last nuclear power plant

01/18/24  
President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday finalized approval of $1.1 billion to help keep California’s last operating nuclear power plant running.
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Inside the Nuclear Fusion Facility That Changed the World

By Alejandro de la Garza   01/11/24  
Shortly after 1 a.m. on the morning of Dec. 5, 2022, Dave Schlossberg, an experimental physicist at National Ignition Facility (NIF), was woken by a phone call. A fusion experiment using NIF’s massive lasers was…
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DOE docs: Carbon removal proposal bets on rare nuclear reactors

By Corbin Hiar   01/03/24  
A climate technology startup aims to suck carbon from the atmosphere using a new type of nuclear power plant that’s never been built in the United States.
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Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs measure lifting Illinois’ moratorium on new nuclear power plants

By Dan Petrella and Jeremy Gorner   12/08/23  
A nearly four-decade moratorium on the construction of nuclear plants in Illinois will end next year under a measure signed Friday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who vetoed an earlier version of the bill.
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22 Countries Pledge to Triple Nuclear Capacity in Push to Cut Fossil Fuels

By Jenny Gross   12/02/23  
The United States and 21 other countries pledged on Saturday at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050, saying the revival of nuclear power was critical for cutting…
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U.S. Bets on Small Nuclear Reactors to Help Fix a Huge Climate Problem

By Brad Plumer   11/12/23  
Towering over the Savannah River in Georgia, the first nuclear reactors built from scratch in the United States in more than 30 years illustrate the enormous promise of nuclear power — and its most glaring…
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First US Small Nuke Project Canceled After Costs Surge 53%

By Will Wade   11/09/23  
NuScale Power Corp., the first company with US approval for a small nuclear reactor design, is canceling plans to build a power plant for a Utah provider as costs surge. The move is a major…
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First planned small nuclear reactor plant in the US has been canceled

By John Timmer   11/09/23  
Nuclear power provides energy that is largely free of carbon emissions and can play a significant role in helping deal with climate change. But in most industrialized countries, the construction of nuclear plants tends to…
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Democratic Governors Block Bills For New Nuclear Power Plants

By Alexander C. Kaufman   10/21/23  
In just the last three months, the Democratic governors of Illinois and North Carolina have vetoed bills to build new reactors in their states, warning that doing so would divert money and attention from a…
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IAEA team gathers marine samples near Fukushima as treated radioactive water is released into sea

By Mari Yamaguchi   10/19/23  
A member of the International Atomic Energy Agency team visiting Fukushima for its first marine sampling since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant started releasing treated radioactive wastewater into the sea said Thursday he does…
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New report shows how 80% of America’s retired coal plants could soon become nuclear reactors: ‘An important opportunity’

By Lajja Mistry   10/09/23  
A 2022 report by the U.S. Department of Energy shows that 80% of the country’s retired or active coal plants are suitable to host advanced nuclear reactors.
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Holtec International formally launches process to restart Palisades nuclear power plant

By Larry Pearl   10/09/23  
Holtec International announced Tuesday the signing of a long-term power purchase agreement between its Palisades Energy subsidiary and Wolverine Power Cooperative, which provides energy to rural communities across Michigan.
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New York State Energy Plan Needs More Balanced Approach

By Keith Schue   09/21/23  
As dignitaries from around the world arrive in Manhattan for United Nations climate talks this month, they might wonder what New York is doing for the planet. Will they ponder state energy policy while renting…
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New Data Proves Nuclear Energy Is Safer Than You Think

By Felicity Bradstock   09/02/23  
There is now a concerted effort to change the global public perception of nuclear power, as governments worldwide look to rapidly expand their clean energy sources to achieve a green transition. Nuclear power has come…
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Turtles carry signs of humanity’s nuclear history in their shells

By Celia Ford   08/30/23  
ON A SPRING day in 1978, a fisherman caught a tiger shark in the lagoon surrounding Enewetak Atoll, part of the Marshall Islands in the north Pacific. That shark, along with the remains of a…
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Japan releases nuclear wastewater into the Pacific. How worried should we be?

By Lesley M.M. Blume   08/24/23  
Japan has started releasing wastewater into the ocean. But this isn’t the kind of wastewater that flows from city streets into stormwater drains. It’s treated nuclear wastewater used to cool damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi…
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Nuclear Power Polling Archive: Decades of Volatile Public Opinion

By Patrick Chase   08/24/23  
Nuclear power has been a major component of the American power grid since the late 1960s and public opinion regarding this controversial energy source has ridden a rollercoaster of highs and lows the entire time.…
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Japan releases Fukushima water into the Pacific—is it dangerous?

By Lesley M.M. Blume   08/23/23  
Japan has started releasing wastewater into the ocean. But this isn’t the kind of wastewater that flows from city streets into stormwater drains. It’s treated nuclear wastewater used to cool damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi…
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US scientists achieve net energy gain for second time in nuclear fusion reaction

08/07/23  
US scientists have achieved net energy gain in a nuclear fusion reaction for the second time since a historic breakthrough in December last year in the quest to find a near-limitless, safe and clean source…
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America is heavily reliant on Russia for nuclear fuel. Congress might change that.

By Maxine Joselow   08/03/23  
Nearly a year-and-a-half after Russia launched a brutal invasion of Ukraine, Congress appears poised to reduce America’s reliance on Moscow for uranium, the main fuel used by nuclear power plants.
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Barrasso’s Nuclear Fuel Amendment Overwhelmingly Passes Senate

07/27/23  
Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), spoke on the Senate floor ahead of the passage of his amendment (#999), the Nuclear Fuel Security…
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Healey administration opposes release of waste water from decommissioned Pilgrim nuclear power plant into Cape Cod Bay

By Mike Damiano and David Abel   07/24/23  
The state moved Monday to block Holtec International from discharging radioactive waste water from the decommissioned Pilgrim nuclear power plant into Cape Cod Bay, the latest salvo in a years-long dispute over how best to…
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The case for 1 mSv per day

By Jack Devanney   07/16/23  
Once again I'm done in by the limitations of the substack editor and my WYSIWYG inability. There is a properly referenced PDF of this piece at gordianknotbook.com. This is true of most of the Gordian…
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We toured California’s last nuclear power plant. Take a look inside

By Sammy Roth   07/13/23  
Seen from a small dive boat on a foggy June morning, the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant hardly looked like an imminent threat to the health and safety of millions of Californians — or a clean…
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The US may soon get its first new source of nuclear fuel in 70 years

By Eric Wesoff   07/12/23  
The U.S. government is committed to bringing an abundance of advanced nuclear reactors to market as part of its decarbonization strategy — but until now, there has been no domestic corporate supply of the specialized…
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The ‘Game-Changing’ Technology The Nuclear Industry Is Betting On For A Revival

By Alexander C. Kaufman   07/07/23  
On a bright, humid afternoon last September, Allen Hickman made the rounds on the floor of a factory that embodies the past, present and future of the nation’s atomic energy industry perhaps more than any…
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Hydrogen, nuclear among winners in last-minute changes to Ohio budget bill

By Kathiann M. Kowalski   07/06/23  
Policies for new utility charges, natural gas, nuclear power promotion and solar energy were scattered throughout the 6,198-page two-year budget bill passed by Ohio lawmakers on June 30. Line item vetoes released in the wee…
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Scientists discover game-changing bacterium that literally eats nuclear waste — here’s how it could protect us from toxins

By Rick Kazmer   07/03/23  
Microbes being studied in the United Kingdom can chow down on toxic nuclear waste — and they don’t get heartburn after dinner.
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The US is getting its first new nuclear reactor in 40 years

By Emily Jones   06/06/23  
The first new nuclear reactor built in the United States in more than 40 years is now up and running in Waynesboro, Georgia. After more than a decade of construction and spiraling costs, Plant Vogtle…
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Nuclear fusion startups set to receive $46 million from the Department of Energy

By Justine Calma   06/02/23  
The Department of Energy is pumping $46 million into eight companies developing nuclear fusion power plants, which has been an elusive clean energy dream for scientists for over half a century. Now, after a big…
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Southern’s first new Vogtle reactor achieves 100% power

05/30/23  
Plant Vogtle's Unit 3 has reached 100% power, Southern Co.'s (NYSE:SO) Georgia Power announced Monday, bringing the new reactor closer to commercial operation.
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This startup says its first fusion plant is five years away. Experts doubt it.

By James Temple   05/10/23  
A startup backed by Sam Altman says it’s on track to flip on the world’s first fusion power plant in five years, dramatically shortening the timeline to a carbon-free energy source that’s eluded scientists for…
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US regulators OK spent nuclear fuel facility in New Mexico

By Susan Montoya Bryan   05/09/23  
US nuclear regulators licensed a multibillion-dollar complex to temporarily store tons of spent nuclear fuel in New Mexico from commercial power plants around the nation, a decision likely to be challenged in court. The Nuclear…
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U.S. Support for Nuclear Power Soars

By Akielly Hu   05/09/23  
A Gallup survey released in late April found that 55 percent of U.S. adults support the use of nuclear power. That’s up four percentage points from last year and reflects the highest level of public…
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Should We Be Worried About Nuclear Waste?

05/04/23  
Ms. Hilly states that spent nuclear fuel is safe and should be “a chief selling point” for nuclear energy. In fact, it is an extremely hazardous material that requires considerable effort to manage safely and…
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Nuclear Waste Is Misunderstood

By Madison Hilly   04/28/23  
On a visit in February to the site of the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown in Japan, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York did something refreshing: She discussed radiation exposure and nuclear waste without fanning fear.…
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This Pioneering Nuclear-Fusion Lab Is Gearing up to Break More Records

By Jeff Tollefson   04/28/23  
Last month, the US National Ignition Facility (NIF) fired its lasers up to full power for the first time since December, when it achieved its decades-long goal of ‘ignition’ by producing more energy during a…
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‘Nuclear Now’ Review: Oliver Stone Makes the Case for Power Plants

By Brandon Yu   04/27/23  
The director’s new documentary considers our complicated relationship to nuclear energy and argues that it is our best hope against climate change....
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New nuclear power could help US climate fight but faces hurdles, report says

By Timothy Gardner   04/27/23  
A next generation of smaller nuclear power plants could help the U.S. reach long term climate change goals but face technical, regulatory and economic hurdles, a report by nonprofit scientific institutions said on Thursday.
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A Nuclear Phase-Out Is Literally A Fatal Mistake

By Will Lockett   04/21/23  
Recently, the echoes of Fukushima, Chornobyl, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki have resonated louder than ever. Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine threatened the stability of Chornobyl, and their haphazard assault on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant could…
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Will NY rely on nuclear to reach its lofty climate goals?

By Kyle Chouinard   04/17/23  
Just under half a mile separates the south shore of Lake Ontario from Nine Mile Point nuclear facility’s cooling tower, standing at almost 550 feet. A plume of white steam dominates the view of the…
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Will Washington Halt the Global Renaissance of Nuclear Power?

By Ted Nordhaus and Adam Stein   04/08/23  
For anyone hoping to reboot the nuclear power sector as a source of zero-carbon energy in the age of climate change, the news has not been good. On Feb. 28, the staff of the U.S.…
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Sustainable and inclusive growth: A weekly briefing

By Seth Stevenson   03/23/23  
Innovative new designs could accelerate the construction of nuclear power plants. Our weekly digest of McKinsey insights explores that topic and more.
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Germany, Spain push to keep nuclear out of EU renewable energy goals

By Kate Abnett   03/16/23  
Seven EU states including Germany, Spain and Denmark have strengthened their resistance to efforts by France to count nuclear energy towards EU renewable energy targets, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
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To scientists’ relief, key research reactor to restart 2 years after accident

By Adrian Cho   03/15/23  
More than 2 years after an accident that caused a small and fleeting release of radiation, a research reactor that serves as a key source of neutrons for studying materials should soon be back online.…
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