The federal government has - after decades - green-lighted a nuclear project.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved two Southern Company reactors at its Vogtle plant.
These are the first nuclear plants to be approved since the Three Miles Island accident in 1979, when Jimmy Carter patrolled the White House.
There are lots worth pondering. But I will focus on one issue.
The Wall Street Journal reports that since 1979, 95 nuclear reactors were canceled in the United States.
It is worth contemplating where we would be today had those plants been built.
We would have almost double the number of nuclear reactors in the United States – up from the current 104 operating reactors.
What would the impact of that have been on development of coal-fired generation and our growing reliance on natural gas generation? Would it have killed in its cradle wind and solar and other renewable technologies? Would we have had the incentive to push energy efficiency?
Would the United States still reign as the leading developer of nuclear power in the world? Today, China and India lead a handful of countries that are much more aggressively pursuing the nuclear option than the United States. That has cost us jobs and national prestige.
Would the issue of a carbon policy ever have arisen if nuclear was more dominant and coal and natural gas generation was fading in importance?
Would an abundance of electric power have prompted politicians to move more aggressively to end our strategic vulnerability to imported oil from dangerous regions of the world? Would we be looking at more electric vehicles on the road?
We don’t know.
We also don’t know if a true renaissance will follow the efforts of Southern Company – or whether the nuclear genie will be throttled once again after a few plants get built in this country.
What disruptive forces will determine the future of nuclear power – and all kinds of generation in America? That is among several important themes to be taken up at the EnergyBiz Leadership Forum in Washington next month – March 19-21.