The US has the largest stockpile of nuclear arms in the world. But on nuclear energy, it's all but out of the race.
Of more than 50 new nuclear reactors being built around the world, just six are being constructed by a U.S. firm, according to data compiled by the World Nuclear Association. Even Argentina, situated within the U.S.'s traditional sphere of influence in the Americas, chose to partner not with the sole remaining U.S. firm still marketing and building major commercial reactors, Westinghouse, but instead a Chinese-backed company for a lucrative new nuclear project set to come online in 2021.
"It's definitely an extremely challenging environment," says Neil Bhatiya, a research associate in the Energy, Economics, and Security Program at the Center for New American Security, a think tank in the nation's capital.
The reasons are manifold: Cheap and abundant natural gas in the U.S., combined with falling prices for wind, solar and battery storage, have made the domestic case for new nuclear reactors – already made challenging by high upfront costs and concerns about safety and security – ever more difficult.
Only two new nuclear plants are under construction in the U.S.: a pair of Westinghouse AP1000 reactors in Georgia. And even those have been mired in seemingly endless delays and sprawling cost overruns – challenges that since 2010 have added close to 20 percent to the initial cost of nuclear reactors around the world, according to an analysis by Imperial College London published this week in the journal Energy Policy.
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