Will Nuclear Power Get Another Chance?

February 22, 1991 • Volume 1
By Richard L. Worsnop


Five years after it happened, the calamitous nuclear reactor accident at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union continues to cloud the future of nuclear power worldwide. In the United States, it has reinforced anti-nuclear sentiment dating from the 1979 Three Mile Island power-plant mishap; no U.S. utility has ordered a new nuclear plant in more than a dozen years. Nonetheless, the development of safer reactors and rising concern over the global warming associated with the burning of fossil fuels could spark a revival of interest in commercial nuclear power before the end of the century.

Editor's Note

This issue of Editorial Research Reports concerns the nation's nuclear-powered electricity generating plants. It does not deal with their military counterpart—the 17 major plants, in 12 states, that produce components for nuclear weapons. The plants employ 80,000 people and cost about $10 billion a year to operate. Three of the better-known facilities are the Savannah River plant in South Carolina, the Rocky Flats plant in Colorado and the Hanford Reservation in Washington.

All three of these plants, as well the others, have been plagued by discoveries of radioactive contamination in recent years. A National Research Council committee asserted in December 1989 that the problem would take many years and more than $100 billion to correct. At Hanford and Rocky Flats, the panel said, plutonium was found in exhaust ducts. This kind of contamination has not been found around power plants. Because of the dangers, some of the military plants have been shut down, which could adversely affect the nation's nuclear-weapons program.

—Marcus D. Rosenbaum

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Nuclear Power
Jun. 10, 2011  Nuclear Power
Jan. 28, 2011  Managing Nuclear Waste
Jan. 2007  Nuclear Proliferation
Mar. 10, 2006  Nuclear Energy
Jun. 08, 2001  Nuclear Waste
Jan. 22, 1993  Nuclear Fusion
Feb. 22, 1991  Will Nuclear Power Get Another Chance?
Dec. 05, 1986  Nuclear Reactor Safety
Jul. 29, 1983  Nuclear Power's Future
Dec. 04, 1981  America's Nuclear Waste Backlog
Sep. 12, 1980  Nuclear Fusion Development
Aug. 10, 1979  Determining Radiation Dangers
Dec. 03, 1976  Nuclear Waste Disposal
Aug. 22, 1975  Nuclear Safety
Aug. 04, 1971  Nuclear Power Options
Jun. 10, 1964  Atomic Power Development
Feb. 12, 1958  Radiation Hazards
Feb. 27, 1957  Atomic Power Race
Mar. 29, 1955  Atomic Energy for Industry
Apr. 24, 1946  Control of Atomic Energy
Nuclear Energy