Nuclear industry's new burst of energy

Thirty years ago, the nuclear energy industry in the United States seemed all but headed for the scrapyard. Now it's poised for a rebirth.

The impetus is climate change. Nuclear power is touted as the one major electricity source that's emission-free and reliable, able to generate massive amounts of power night and day, in wind and calm.

But hovering over nuclear's new dawn is an incident that began at 4 a.m. on March 28, 1979.

Deep within Reactor 2 at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant along the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, main water pumps failed.

At the end of a cascade of disasters, the reactor core melted down, though the containment walls were not breached.

The accident and other factors set the industry reeling. Costs rose. Plants were canceled.

The industry learned from that massive mistake, its proponents say. Chief among the lessons: a sharper focus on safety.


The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has applications from 17 companies to build 26 reactors - including a PPL proposal to build a plant in Berwick, Pa., near its Susquehanna plant.

New Jersey's PSEG is laying the engineering groundwork for an application to build a fourth reactor at its Salem-Hope Creek facility.

Without a shovel going into the ground, the industry has spent $4 billion and created 15,000 jobs as part of a ramp-up over the last few years, said Tom Kauffman, spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute.

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