US to Resume Nuclear Reactor Construction
The US will resume the construction of nuclear reactors by the end of the year after being put on hold for 34 years. Toshiba Corp. will begin exporting turbine equipment next month for the reactors to go up in Georgia and South Carolina under Westinghouse Electric Co., a subsidiary of Toshiba, by 2016 at the earliest.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), responsible for the safety assessment of the reactors in the summer after the onset of the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown, will also issue the final safety assessment report for the US reactors before they can begin construction.
As an active promoter of building nuclear facilities, it is unlikely that the NRC's screenings will hold the projects back. Confident of receiving swift approval, US electric power companies are already well on their way to procuring equipment and are entering the final stages of preparation.
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As the world's largest nuclear energy producer, the US has a total of 104 reactors in operation today. However, with the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant meltdown in 1979, new nuclear plant construction has since been suspended until now. In an attempt to shift away from dependence on Middle East oil, resuming the construction of nuclear power plants has become a major focus of many utility companies.
In addition to the four reactors, the NRC is currently screening 26 other new reactors. In light of the disasters at Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, the NRC says it will place priority on safety assessments of existing nuclear power plant, even if that means delaying the screening of new projects.
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly