Nuclear power plants when they began being constructed were not seen as running for more than 40 years because of radioactivity embrittling metal parts and otherwise causing safety problems. But in recent decades, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the operating licenses of nuclear power plants from 40 years to 60 years and then 80 years, and is now considering 100 years.
“It is crazy,” declares Robert Alvarez, a former senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Energy and a U.S. Senate senior investigator and now senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and is an author of the book Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation.
“No reactor in history has lasted that long,” commented Alvarez. The oldest nuclear power plant in the U.S. was Oyster Creek, five miles south of Toms River, New Jersey, which opened in 1969 and was shut down 49 years later in 2018.
The move is “an act of desperation in response to the collapse of the nuclear program in this country and the rest of the world,” he declares.
The nuclear industry and nuclear power advocates in government are “desperately trying to hold on,” says Alvarez. With hardly any new nuclear power plants being constructed in the U.S. and the total number down to 94, they seek to have the operating licenses of existing nuclear power plants extended, he says, to keep the nuclear industry alive.
It’s a sign of “the end of the messy romance with nuclear power.”
The NRC will be holding a webinar on January 21 to consider the extending of nuclear plant operating licenses to 100 years. As its announcement is headed: “PUBLIC MEETING ON DEVELOPMENT OF GUIDANCE DOCUMENTS TO SUPPORT LICENSE RENEWAL FOR 100 YEARS OF PLANT OPERATION.”
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