Oregon’s only foray into nuclear energy came to a final end in 2006 with the demolition of PGE’s Trojan nuclear reactor. That nuclear power plant was plagued with problems and citizen activist groups fought to shut it down. In 1979, the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island galvanized public opposition and effectively halted new nuclear projects. But in recent years, the threat of climate change and the recognition of the need to reduce our carbon footprint seems to be changing attitudes about nuclear power. Nuclear advocates say technology has come a long way since the 1970’s and that the key to supplying the nation’s energy demands — without carbon emissions — is nuclear power.
Although billions of dollars in financing for new nuclear energy projects was cut out of the final version of the economic stimulus package, the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) just awarded Oregon State University a six million dollar grant to study new designs for nuclear reactors. A small start up in Corvallis, NuScale Power, is already testing its design at OSU and is meeting regularly with the NRC about its application for certification. If everything goes smoothly, a NuScale reactor could be generating electricity in just eight short years.
How should nuclear power fit into our energy future? Is the reliability and relatively low cost of nuclear power worth the worry about hazardous waste and security? What are your hopes and concerns about nuclear energy providing your electricity?
- Bruce Landrey: Senior director of development for NuScale Power
- Jeff King: Senior resources analyst for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council
- Greg Kafoury: Oregon attorney and activist