Un-surveyed nuclear neighborhood. Image credit:NASA Earth Observatory
The US nuclear industry recently commissioned a nationwide survey of adults living within 10 miles of 64 U.S. nuclear power plants. A total of 1,152 full-time residents were surveyed, excluding households where someone worked at a power plant. Of those surveyed "86 percent have a favorable impression of the nearby nuclear power plant " and two-thirds said it would be "...acceptable to add a new reactor at the site of the nearest nuclear power plant..." Not sure how the results would have been had the survey radius been extended to 40 miles (to more comprehensively reflect the total potential evacuation zone, and demographic diversity within). Anyway, let's talk about what this means for the future.
To my mind, the most important finding was, also as reported in the San Francisco Gate, that
...86 percent agree that when their original operating license expires, we should renew the license of nuclear power plants that continue to meet federal safety standards;...What makes this finding so important is that the nuclear power industry, suddenly reversing 40 years of what had been the community standard in nuclear engineering, no longer thinks existing plants can last just four decades. Now, the argument goes, they can be upgraded to last for a century.
Reincarnation of existing, fully licensed nucs
The Elmwood City Ledger, carrying an AP story, spells out this new nuclear plant design life paradigm in their story: NRC and industry rewrite nuclear history . Here is a brief excerpt.
So far, 66 of 104 reactors have been granted license renewals. Most of the 20-year extensions have been granted with scant public attention. And the NRC has yet to reject a single application to extend an original license. The process has been so routine that many in the industry are already planning for additional license extensions, which could push the plants to operate for 80 years, and then 100.A related "big deal" is that no fully operating US nuclear plant currently uses digital monitoring and process control technology (those computer thingies), while digital process control and monitoring are what European and Asian nuclear plants are going for. Instead, we in the US hear about such absurdities as Solar Backup Proposed For Nuclear Power Plants.
Note: this reincarnation of existing licensed facilities differs from proposals to reincarnate partially completed or done-but-never-run nucs: a.k.a. the "Zombie nucs" For background on the Zombie nucs, see: Zombie Power: Abandoned Nuclear Projects Rise From Their 1970's Graves