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Nuclear powers: New concepts and the outlook for the global nuclear fleet

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By Roger Snodgrass

SANTA FE – Among the most interesting events this week at an energy conference hosted by Los Alamos National Laboratory were back-to-back presentations on nuclear power by two prominent experts.

On a day devoted to the future of conventional and alternative energy systems, a former director of a national nuclear weapons laboratory and the chief technology officer of the AREVA NP, the American subsidy of the French-owned nuclear conglomerate, gave two different views of the current state of the so-called nuclear renaissance.

After 30 years of declining public interest and support during which no new nuclear plants were built, the prospects for future nuclear power generators turned sharply upward in the early years of this decade,

The trend has continued with the prospect of peak-oil and uncertain oil supplies added to the growing demand for carbon-free energy to slow global warming. Also favorable has been a period of industry-friendly legislation, regulatory simplification and loan guarantees, which have encouraged new applications.  

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is currently evaluating proposals for 24 reactors from 16 companies around the country. Many more are on tap around the world.


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