Let the howling begin. For the first time in 34 years, an American company has filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the construction of a new nuclear power plant.
The proposal submitted Tuesday is to build two new reactors with a total capacity of 2,700 megawatts at the South Texas Project site in Matagorda County, where two nuclear units have already operated for 25 years. The size of the reactors is unprecedented -- the biggest American plants generally produce about 1,200 MW.
"This is a historical event," said Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, long the Senate's strongest supporter of nuclear. "Consumers around the world are benefiting from clean nuclear power. Finally our nation is on the verge of taking greater advantage of this technology. I hope it is the first of many."
The statement has its irony. Nuclear technology, of course, was invented in this country. In the 1980s we gave it up for fear of accidents, which caused endless regulatory delays. One common argument among nuclear opponents was that nuclear energy was only an illegitimate offspring of nuclear bomb technology cooked up by scientists who felt guilty about building the atomic bomb. Over the last two decades, Japan (along with France) has become the world's technological leader. Toshiba, which enhanced its nuclear technology by buying Westinghouse, will build NRG's new reactors. The vessel heads will be manufactured by Japan Steel Works, the only forge in the world now capable of casting these huge structures. America is playing catch-up on our own technology.
I'm looking forward to all the same loud mouths who whine about global warming protest against our cleanest and greenest energy source.
It should be interesting. I've long said that I'll start taking global warming seriously when environmentalists start taking it seriously.