By Kelly Lundeen
The 2022 annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report placed the US third for the oldest reactor fleet. The US’s 92 operating reactors have an average age of 41.2 years, longer than the 40-year licenses for which they were originally permitted. The US comes in behind Switzerland (43.6 years), a nation with four reactors, and Belgium (42.3 years) with seven.
Why so old? Prior to Watts Bar Unit 2 going online in 2016, the US had not begun operating a new reactor since 1996. As society has come to understand that nuclear energy, previously coined ‘atoms for peace,’ is not so peaceful — with accidents, lethally radioactive waste, and cancer clusters around reactor sites — opposition to the energy source has intensified. Problems have bogged down the industry from delays in licensing, enormous construction cost overruns, and simple economics. Investors need assurances that nuclear power can rely on government and ratepayer handouts to be solvent. As politicians are beholden to their large nuclear industry donors, bailouts allow the old reactors to renew licenses beyond a lifespan of ‘safe’ operation.
— Forbes, Oct. 22; World Nuclear Industry Status Report, 2022