This Compendium focuses exclusively on nuclear energy. For in-depth
information on the related issue of nuclear waste, consult Nuclear Waste:
A Compendium, Order No. C-12024.
The This nuclear energy Compendium includes sections on topics including
U.S. federal government nuclear energy policy, nuclear energy cooperation
with foreign countries, nuclear plant design and security, and funding.
Nuclear energy is viewed by its supporters as a virtually inexhaustible
and clean source of power. But the industry has been hampered by
construction cost overruns, delays by regulators and interveners, concerns
about nuclear weapons proliferation, and controversy over nuclear waste
disposal. But as the price of conventional fossil fuels has grown more
volatile, the economics of nuclear power have begun to appear more
attractive. In addition, concern about carbon dioxide emissions from fossil
fuels, particularly coal, has led some former critics of nuclear energy to
reconsider its merits.
Federal incentives may play a key role in the future of U.S. nuclear
power. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58), new reactors are
eligible for tax credits, loan guarantees, and payments for regulatory
delays. Those incentives— combined with volatile fossil fuel prices and carbon
dioxide concerns— have led to license applications for more than two dozen
new power reactors. Proposals for additional federal incentives, such as
increased loan guarantees, are likely to be a major subject of congressional debate.
Safety has been a fundamental issue for nuclear power since its
inception. Congressional concern about nuclear power plant safety since
2001 has focused particularly on the potential consequences of
terrorist attacks. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 included several
significant nuclear security measures that had been debated since the
attacks. Other safety issues have also unexpectedly arisen from time to time,
despite the good safety record of most plants in recent years.
Date of Report: December 19, 2012
Number of Pages: 237 Order Number: C-12023 Price: $59.95
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