Commissioned after World War II, nuclear energy production for civilian use seemed to be at the cutting edge and the end of our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and coal. In 1946, the U.S. government assembled the AEC or Atomic Energy Commission. After seeing the immense energy generated by the atomic bombs created under the code name “Manhatten Project” during WWII, the government decided to dig a little deeper. By 1951, the AEC had created the first atomic energy turbine to create electricity. In the 60’s, the US demand and interest in atomic energy increased rapidly under the assumption that this was the clean energy we had so desperately been seeking. In 1979, the infamous 3 Mile Island disaster occurred in Pennsylvania. By the early 80’s, growing concerns of nuclear contamination started to disrupt the rosy future of nuclear power. Then in 1986, the famous Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former Soviet Union explosion occurs and contaminates much of the surrounding environment. At it’s peak in the early 90’s, nuclear power accounted for 22% of the nations power production.
Now we are seeing the industry come to a complete halt. Many of the structures planned for production have been shelved. There are stories all over the news about these aging monoliths of our post World War II days being decommissioned. So many of the plants resemble the story of the Watts Bar II plant in the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority). THis plant has been “under construction” for 43 years according to the LA Times. Due to it’s extended time line, much of it’s equipment is now outdated. The “newest” plant, other than this one is at least 20 years old. According to the article by the LA Times: “Watts Bar, the so-called 21st century American nuclear plant, defines the crisis facing the U.S. nuclear industry. It’s stuck with outmoded technology and a management culture that exacerbates, rather than constrains, the technology’s safety issues. With every episode like this, the industry moves one step further away from making the case for its survival.”
Photo Cred. LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-diablo-canyon-closing-20160623-snap-story.html
Will this be the last nuclear power plant to be built? I can’t answer that personally, but after seeing the alternative options like solar and wind energy, I think it is safe to deduce that nuclear energy will pass away like the 8-track and cord-tethered telephone.