In 1979, Three Mile Island nuclear reactor in Pennsylvania experienced a meltdown. Although no one died, the incident was labeled a disaster. However the real disaster appears to still be the impact these events had on the industry.
This week the owner of the plant said it would have to prematurely shut down in September 2019 due to unsupportive policy causing financial issues. The Three Mile Island and Fukushima incidents have placed significant pressure on the nuclear industry through increased regulation and further safety systems. These have added to costs making reactors like Three Mile Island unprofitable.
Safety and regulation is obviously important, but they have often been based on fear rather than science, and not accompanied by sufficient support and innovation for the industry. The consequences of a decline of nuclear are severe. Not only does it provide long term, reliable power, it also contributes to energy security and avoids dangerous air pollution and greenhouse gasses. There is concern that the decline of nuclear is offsetting growth in renewables meaning a lack of progress for overall low carbon power.
The American industry is in trouble, but it is also symptomatic of many other countries in the world. Especially in Europe, early retirements are common and even in supportive countries like the UK, new nuclear is struggling to gain traction. However with the consequences to health, security and the climate that a loss of nuclear power risks, it is essential that a new generation of nuclear power is supported and encouraged.