The Oil and the Glory

Is the Fukushima moratorium over?

Seven months after the Fukushima disaster, numerous countries including the United States and China are reviving suspended or moribund nuclear power programs, suggesting a thaw in a broadly imposed freeze on the construction of new reactors. In the U.S., Southern Nuclear Company says it plans to proceed with the construction of two added 1,100-megawatt nuclear ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Seven months after the Fukushima disaster, numerous countries including the United States and China are reviving suspended or moribund nuclear power programs, suggesting a thaw in a broadly imposed freeze on the construction of new reactors.

In the U.S., Southern Nuclear Company says it plans to proceed with the construction of two added 1,100-megawatt nuclear reactors in Georgia, a $14.8 billion expansion of an existing nuclear power facility, Rob Pavey writes at the Augusta Chronicle. When it is completed, it will be the first new U.S. nuclear power plants in three decades.

The reactors mean that the Obama Administration has diverged from Germany and Japan, which mothballed nuclear power plans following the March disaster in Fukushima. The cost of building Southern’s Plant Vogtle,to be completed in 2016 and 2017, will be partly paid with an $8.3 billion loan guarantee from an Administration program launched prior to Fukushima, reports Bloomberg’s Julie Johnsson.

China, which suspended an aggressive nuclear industry expansion pending a review of the safety of existing and planned plants, may be prepared to approve new reactor projects early next year, reports  Eric Ng at Power Engineering, quoting the official Chinese media.

Beijing will proceed with pre-existing expansion plans for 2015, calling for installed capacity to almost quadruple to 40 gigawatts. But plans for 2020 will be scaled back, Ng writes, quoting the China Securities Journal. Rather than 86 gigawatts of installed capacity, the plan will specify building "not less than 60 gigawatts."

As for Japan, it so far is not resurrecting its own plans for new nuclear reactors, but it is taking its know-how abroad, reports the New York Times’ Hiroko Tabuchi. Japan is bidding on or already building some two-dozen reactors around the world, including in Lithuania, Malaysia, Turkey and Vietnam. In Vietnam, the plant would cost $13 billion.

Japan’s nuclear export policy has met domestic opposition (anti-export activists pictured above), including this petition drive opposing the government’s "hell-bent" plans to work in Malaysia. But the country’s need for export earnings appear to have trumped suggestions that the Fukushima disaster somehow discredits Japan’s nuclear technological capability.

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