The U.S. will build five new nuclear reactors by 2020 and ignore calls to scale back plans in the wake of Japan’s nuclear accident, said Chris Gadomski, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“We’ll see a reassessment and reevaluation and then stay the course,” Gadomski said today at a conference in New York today. Plans to build the five reactors are already underway, he said, and “We don’t see that changing.”
No new nuclear plants have been built in the U.S. since the 1979 near-meltdown at Three Mile Island. Interest in atomic energy has gained as a way to curb greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, and the Obama administration has offered loan guarantees to developers of reactors, which account for a fifth of total U.S. electricity.
“We are looking first and foremost at keeping our current fleet operating safely,” said Andrea Sterdis, senior manager of nuclear expansion at Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal power supplier that operates four reactors in the U.S. South. She spoke at the conference hosted by New Energy Finance.
The biggest threat to new nuclear power plants may be the low cost of natural gas, which can be used to fuel power stations that are quicker and cheaper to build than atomic-fueled facilities, said said Edward Kee, vice president of NERA Economic Consulting.
“Everything in the U.S. is challenged by cheap natural gas,” Kee said at the conference.