Japan and Future of U.S. Nuclear Power

The recent history of the U.S. nuclear industry suggests that nuclear power can be a safe source of low-carbon electricity. But disasters can happen very quickly, with potentially cataclysmic results.

The loss of coolant, explosions and apparent partial meltdown of nuclear plants in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami remind us that nuclear power is inherently risky. The U.S. government and the nuclear industry must take new actions to ensure that nuclear power is safe for the American public.

New nuclear reactors are phenomenally expensive, costing up to $10 billion dollars apiece. Exelon CEO John Rowe said recently that the combination of low natural gas prices and failure of Congress to put a price on carbon dioxide pollution pushes back any significant nuclear renaissance by a "decade, maybe two."

The U.S. nuclear industry has long argued that new reactors are prohibitively expensive because of an overly burdensome site selection and permitting process, which they say unnecessarily drives up costs. But, in fact, new nuclear plants have seen soaring prices not just in Florida, Texas and other states — but in Finland, Turkey and Canada.

This article was originally published in CNN.