25 Years After Three Mile Island, Nuclear Power on the Rise

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island’s nuclear facility, an event many observers predicted would be the beginning of the end of the U.S. nuclear industry. Turns out that was wishful thinking. While no new nuclear plants have been ordered since then, 50 previously ordered plants have been built, and President Bush is pushing for new construction. The U.S. gets three times as much power from nuclear plants as it did in 1979, about a fifth of its total electricity. With oil and natural gas prices climbing, and nuclear offering cheaper power than either (by some accounting methods, anyway), the nuclear industry sees a bright, greenish-glowing future. Critics worry that the nation’s nuclear plants are approaching the end of their life spans and being pushed too hard, making future accidents inevitable, and that the plants are too tempting a target for terrorists. Despite such worries, plant inspections by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2002 were down by about a third since 1990.