Reviving the Nuclear Manufacturing Industry in the U.S.

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by Sunni Man, Oct 16, 2008.

  1. Sunni Man
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    Sunni Man Diamond Member

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    By Kent Garber
    Associated Press


    Renewed calls for building new nuclear reactors to cope with a worrisome energy future have become a popular theme on the campaign trail for candidates like John McCain, but any effort faces a serious obstacle--the moribund state of the nation's nuclear manufacturing industry.

    There is some good news for nuclear energy's boosters, because several large companies are leading an effort to revive nuclear-energy-related manufacturing. Most of the proposed projects are still conceptual or in the planning stage, but they appear to be gathering some new momentum.

    Over the past few years, power companies and utilities across the United States have been filing or preparing applications--nearly two dozen at last count--to build new nuclear reactors, spurred by concerns about energy demand and desires to find cleaner (and cheaper) alternatives to coal, which provides almost half of the country's electricity.

    To do so, however, they'll need a range of custom parts, from steam generators to pressurizers to special engines, all engineered to extremely precise standards. Finding them in the United States won't be easy, because the plants that once built and assembled these items have long since closed down.

    Today, Tokyo-based Japan Steel Works has a near monopoly on manufacturing the most significant component for nuclear reactors, the steel containment vessels, and a three-year waiting list for new orders, as companies from the United States, China, Europe, and elsewhere rush to place orders.

    But the American landscape is slowly starting to evolve, thanks to some private companies with a keen interest in advancing nuclear power. Take Areva, the French nuclear energy giant. Areva's CEO for North America, Tom Christopher, says the company expects to announce in October plans to build a nuclear-parts plant in the United States that would produce big components (though not the huge steel reactor vessels themselves).

    Another effort is getting underway in Louisiana, where two companies, Shaw Group Inc. and Westinghouse, have teamed up with the state's governor, Bobby Jindal, to build a facility at the Port of Lake Charles, near the Gulf Coast, to produce large nuclear components. The plant, which is projected to open in mid-2009, would make "modules" for a new Westinghouse reactor design aimed at bringing down the cost of building new units. Louisiana State University researchers, in an analysis of the project, estimate that the new facility could produce about 9,000 jobs over the next 15 years and potentially several billion dollars in earnings.

    The prospect of new nuclear plants is also helping to energize manufacturing for uranium enrichment facilities, which make nuclear fuel. One firm, the United States Enrichment Company, is now working with companies in 10 states to make customized parts that it will need for its American Centrifuge Plant in Ohio, a massive enrichment facility expected to come online in 2010. Some of USEC's partners are undertaking $100 million-plus facility expansions to accommodate the increased workload. That translates into more jobs.

    Overall, the new centrifuge plant is expected to help create more than 6,000 jobs, including temporary ones. Many of the companies involved in this nuclear manufacturing burst are European, not American, mostly because foreign countries are much more reliant on nuclear power. France, as nuclear proponent Sen. John McCain is quick to note on the campaign trail, gets about 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear--and it's foreign companies such as Areva that tend to have the expertise, familiarity, and in many cases interest to undertake these projects.

    The Associated Press | The essential global news network
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2008
  2. Turboswede
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    Turboswede Very Metal

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    I go over this a bit in my “Windmills Kill” post. Nuclear power is so capital intensive to set up and so expensive to decommission that we may as well power our cities burning dollar bills.

    That’s why lots of the existing plans we have are not running and why there are ¾ completed plants all over the country. Only where combustion is not possible or extremely difficult does nuclear power make any sense at all.

    If this were not true, nuclear plants would have replaced coal plants all over the country in the 70’s and 80’s.
     
  3. dilloduck
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    dilloduck Diamond Member

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    Europe has hundreds---how did they pull it off ?
     
  4. Sunni Man
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    Sunni Man Diamond Member

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    From what I understand, France gets almost all of her power from nuclear plants, and has never had a problem.
     
  5. Toro
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    More nuclear is a good thing.
     
  6. Turboswede
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    Its all a question of will, access and cost. You are correct that France has a lot of Nuclear power, (as does Sweden) but Great Britain and Norway do not, because they have alternatives. The motivation for Nuclear power in France and Swede stems from the desire for energy independence, France and Sweden lack domestic oil, gas and coal. Sweden does have significant hydro power production but it only supplies about 40% of the power needed.

    These two countries are faced with a choice, either import power, or go nuclear. In addition these two countries both heavily subsidize nuclear power as it is in the national interest to produce power domestically and not rely on Polish coal or Russian gas.

    Here we are talking about electricity production for industrial and commercial use, not necessarily oil consumption (unless we are driving nuclear cars). The United States imports a tremendous amount of oil for transportation but not for electricity production and where oil is used for electricity; there is excess capacity for coal generated power if oil is reduced.

    If France were to power industry through coal, oil or gas. It would be spending a huge number of Euros on (say) Russian gas. The Russians would have a large number of Euros which they could then hold or sell as they liked even if it would destabilize French currency.

    I know that’s what’s happened to the dollar because of foreign oil but foreign oil’s market in the US is at the consumer level. OPEC tried an embargo against the US in the early 70’s (October 73’ War) and found that the US recovered relitivly quickly to the oil shock while it ruined the economies of several Middle Eastern States.

    Imagine what would have happened if US industry was also dependent on foreign oil. OPECs embargo would have ground US industry to a halt.

    That is the choice that France faces with importing gas from Russia, if the US’s only alternatives were to go Nuclear or depend on Russian Gas supplies, I would be first in line to vote Nuclear.

    As we all know, unlike France, the US has other alternatives when it comes to domestic energy production.
     

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