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« Clean nuclear energy future one step closer | Main | Doug Casey: Why the Euro Is a Doomed Currency »

Why America abandoned nuclear power (and what we can learn from South Korea)

There's a compelling argument that the world ought to build (many) more nuclear power plants. We need vast amounts of carbon-free energy to stave off global warming. It's far from clear that renewables can do the job alone. And nuclear is a proven technology, already providing 11 percent of electricity globally.

So what's the catch? Cost. More than radiation fears or waste issues, cost is nuclear's Achilles' heel. Modern-day reactors have become jarringly expensive to build, often going for $5 billion to $10 billion a pop. Worse, the price tag appears to be rising in many places. In the 1960s, new reactors in the US were about as cheap as modern-day gas plants. Today, new US reactors are more than five times as expensive as gas plants.

One key question, then, is whether nuclear's cost problems are an immutable fact of life, an intrinsic flaw that will doom the technology. Nuclear skeptics like Joe Romm often argue as much. On this view, endlessly soaring costs are inevitable when you try to build massive steel-and-concrete structures that require complex radiation safeguards. Better, then, to focus on renewables, whose costs are falling.

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