Here in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to shut down the Indian Point nuclear power plant when its original licenses expire in 2013 and 2015. The first wave of nuclear plants in the U.S., including Indian Point were designed to last 40 years, and their time’s almost up.
But as the AP has been reporting, and as we covered last night on the show, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the industry now want to keep the plants open for as much as a century. The reason is simple: Money. Plants like Indian Point in New York and Fort Calhoun in Nebraska were expensive to build. With the original loans paid down, plant owners can finally start making a profit. The last thing they want to do is start over.
A 2009 industry report cited by the AP makes that clear. From the Electric Power Research Institute’s “Taking the Long View of Nuclear Plants” (pdf):
“While there is no doubt that the industry aspires to build a new generation of nuclear plants, given the significant regulatory uncertainty, the high cost of new construction, and the status of the credit markets, the first priority must be maintaining existing fleet capacity,” said Mano Nazar, chief nuclear officer at Florida Power & Light Company and chair of EPRI’s Nuclear Power Council. “Like a classic car from the 1970s, our plants have shown that if they’re maintained properly, they become an increasingly valuable asset for the long term. This is not a trend that I expect will change.”
Nuclear plant as classic car might make economic sense to the owners, but I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that comforts the public much.