Robert Bryce isn't expecting a nuclear power revival in America - and not because of Japan:
[T]he forces that already undermined the revival of America’s nuclear sector are largely economic, not political. The most formidable obstacle: the ongoing shale gas revolution.
The ability of drillers to unlock vast quantities of natural gas has resulted in an avalanche of methane production and a resulting collapse in prices. Last year, U.S. gas production hit its highest level since 1973. And despite a very cold winter, natural-gas prices have generally stayed below $4 per thousand cubic feet, which is about half the level seen as recently as 2008.
On Sunday morning, I discussed the economics of nuclear with a senior executive in the U.S. nuclear utility sector. He asked, “How can you compete with natural gas when it’s priced at less than $4?” The answer, said the executive, who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak the media, is, “you can’t.”
Kevin Drum points out that taxing carbon would close the economic gap:
It's perfectly reasonable to argue that the problem here isn't that nukes are genuinely more dangerous or more expensive than other forms of power generation, it's that other forms of power generation aren't forced to pay for their own externalities. Charge them properly for the carbon they emit and the mercury they spew and the particulates they make us breathe and they'd be just as expensive and just as dangerous as nuclear power. I think there's a pretty good case to be made for that. Nonetheless, until we do start charging properly for all those externalities, nukes just aren't going to be cost effective and nothing is going to change that.
(Chart from The Economist)
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