Reactivating Nuclear Reactors for the Fight against Climate Change

Even environmentalists are reevaluating nuclear power as a possible solution to global warming, but can it really help?
  1. Brown's Ferry is the name of an unprepossessing boat crossing on the Tennessee River in Alabama. It is also the birthplace of a revival for nuclear power in the U.S. In May 2007 the one gigawatt-electric nuclear reactor known prosaically as Unit 1 restarted boiling water—after a 22-year shutdown and a refurbishment that cost $1.8 billion.

    Brown's Ferry is just the first. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), owner of the three nuclear reactors at Brown's Ferry, also has plans to complete a stalled reactor at Watts Bar in Tennessee and two new reactors at Bellefonte in Alabama; Princeton, N.J.–based NRG Energy wants to build two new reactors at its South Texas nuclear power facility.

    And North Carolina–based Progress Energy hopes to replace two old coal-fired power plants with two new nukes near Florida's Tampa Bay by 2017 at a cost of roughly $7 billion apiece—a price tag already incorporated into the company's bills to local ratepayers. If built, the two units would be the first...

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