U.S. Regulators Approve First New Nuclear Plant in Nearly 20 Years
The U.S. approved a request to begin generating electricity at a nuclear reactor, the first time in almost 20 years that federal regulators have given a new nuclear power plant such a license, Rebecca Smith reports. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave approval to the Tennessee Valley Authority to load uranium fuel into the Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor in Spring City, Tenn.
NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said his agency “is satisfied TVA’s work on the reactor meets all the relevant requirements for safe operation.” The reactor should reach full power within a few months, said TVA Chief Executive Bill Johnson.
Still, experts aren’t predicting a wave of new nuclear projects because of the long, tangled history of the TVA reactor, the high cost of building and operating nuclear plants and competition from lower-cost natural-gas plants.
MINERS KEEP EXPANDING AS PRICES COLLAPSE
It is not only commodity prices that are falling. The cost of producing them is also declining, and some miners are taking advantage by expanding, Paul Kiernan and Rhiannon Hoyle report. Over the past year, the U.S. dollar has gained against currencies in commodity-reliant countries such as Brazil, South Africa, Australia and Canada. Miners receive U.S. dollars for the coal, gold and iron ore they dig up, but pay wages, electricity and many other expenses in local currency.
Australian coal production rose 6% in the first six months of 2015 and consultancy Wood Mackenzie estimates Australia’s average cost of producing coal has fallen 30% since 2013. “Coal prices have not fallen by much in exporting countries” when converted into local currencies, said Capital Economics economist Thomas Pugh. “This has allowed producers in these countries to maintain supply, and even increase it in some cases.”