Because there is a long lead-time associated with bringing new primary resources into production, a short-term supply shortfall may develop as these secondary sources decline. However, the United States is presently down-blending 17 tonnes of highly enriched uranium to be available for a fuel bank,111 and as more disarmament agreements are reached, it is likely that more Russian and U.S. highly enriched uranium will become available to be down-blended for use in power reactors.
Companies in the United States are expressing renewed interest in building new nuclear power plants. Reasons cited include favorable recent experience with existing nuclear plants, particularly with regard to improved reliability and safety; concerns about natural gas prices; barriers to the construction of new coal-fired power plants; and concerns about the potential for future regulatory restrictions on CO2 emissions. Like renewable sources, nuclear power plants produce no greenhouse gases during operations.
Thus there could be significant growth in this country’s nuclear capacity in the years ahead, although substantial barriers—including high capital costs and lack of a means for the long-term disposition of used nuclear fuel—remain. The committee’s major findings on the future deployment of nuclear technologies are given below:
Plant deployment: Until 2035, new U.S. nuclear power plants are likely to be based primarily on plant designs that are evolutionary modifications of currently operating U.S. plants. Commercial deployment will depend largely on the economics of new plant construction.
Evolutionary designs. Evolutionary nuclear plant designs are technically ready for commercial deployment now. These designs incorporate features intended to improve operating efficiency, reliability, safety, and security.