Change the Atomic Energy Act? How about change the Georgia Electric Territorial Act?

In reaction to the NRC denying a nuclear permit for Calvert Cliffs, some nuclear backers suggest changing the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to permit majority foreign ownership of nuclear reactors. What will they suggest next? Asking Iran to invest in U.S. nukes?

Steve Skutnik wrote for 5 September 2012, A cost-free way to open up nuclear investment,

If this seems entirely backward in a world of global production and investment, that’s because it is. The current regulation is an artifact of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which first authorized private ownership of nuclear facilities. (Prior to this—per the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, all nuclear technology was considered a state secret, during the short time in which the U.S. enjoyed a monopoly on the technology.)

Is there any real compelling reason for restrictions on foreign ownership and investment in nuclear facilities to exist at a time when the U.S. holding a monopoly on the technology has long since passed? Issues of safety here of course are irrelevant—the facilities would be licensed and regulated by the NRC, just as any other nuclear facility is now. About the only salient objection is the political one—i.e., the implications of a foreign entity maintaining controlling ownership in key infrastructure. (Although it’s hard to see anyone getting particularly upset about the reverse—U.S. entities owning a controlling stake in infrastructure in other nations.)

Yeah, sure, strict regulation will deal with that, just like it prevents fracking from setting drinking water on fire, or BP from poisoning the Gulf. The new NRC head is maybe well-meaning, but it’s the same NRC that gave Vogtle 1 a clean bill just before it had to shut down and the same NRC that’s ignoring cancer in Shell Bluff.

Oh, by the way, the article gets to the main point eventually:

Meanwhile, an issue to consider is the fact that bringing together capital to complete a construction bid like Calvert Cliffs 3 is no mean feat (particularly in an economy where investors seem all too skittish about long-term investments in energy infrastructure). Given the difficulty then, it seems positively insane for any political leadership to turn away large investments in long-term energy infrastructure (especially non-emitting baseload like nuclear, which has a long expected operational lifetime).

That’s right, unless Calvert Cliffs gets a “great, big company” like Southern Company or Duke Energy to go in, it’s dead in the water. Maybe there’s a lesson here about putting too many eggs in the same basket? Maybe it’s a lesson about the false dependability promise of baseload the same summer millions in the U.S. had no power and 300 million in India had none, except for those who already had distributed generation installed?

I’ve got a better idea: how about we change the 1973 Georgia Electric Territorial Act to let you and me generate distributed electricity on our rooftops and parking lots and sell our excess through the grid on an open market? Unlike centralized baseload generation, there would be much less chance of it all going down at once. The incumbent electric utilities could take a cut for transport. And companies like Georgia Solar Utilities (GaSU) could build big solar plants without having to kowtow to Georgia Power.

And how’s this for a back-handed compliment:

(The lawsuit, incidentally, was filed by the anti-nuclear activist group NIRS, indicating that anti-nuclear groups will not hesitate use every tool at their disposal to block or shut down any nuclear power facility—and to hell with the cost to the environment as a result.)

Funny how solar and wind cost are much cleaner environmentally, both in operation and in needing no fuel. Go NIRS! Here’s their facebook page. And let’s not forget Public Citizen ( facebook), Beyond Nuclear (facebook), and Southern Maryland CARES. Cheers to the successful plaintiffs!