It's not that I am advocating nuclear power, I just want to mention this is likely where things are going. There hasn't been a major accident for a while and those who've demonstrated against nuclear power plants some decades ago are now worrying about hemorrhoids and their children's tuition fees. What I am waiting for is some 'educational' advertising campaign for how great nuclear power is to overcome the NIMBY problem, or possibly BANANAs. Nuclear power plants are cost intensive, so to get things started governmental backup is helpful. Here as in many other areas however, the question is eventually not whether it is cost intensive, but how much more cost-intensive other alternatives would be.
Over the last years you could collect more evidence for this trend. Since 2002 the Department of Energy is running a program called Nuclear Power 2010:
"New baseload nuclear generating capacity is required to enhance U.S. energy supply diversity and energy security, a key National Energy Policy (NEP) objective. The Nuclear Power 2010 program, unveiled by the Secretary on February 14, 2002, is a joint government/industry cost-shared effort to identify sites for new nuclear power plants, develop and bring to market advanced nuclear plant technologies, evaluate the business case for building new nuclear power plants, and demonstrate untested regulatory processes[...]
The NP-2010 program is focused on reducing the technical, regulatory and institutional barriers to deployment of new nuclear power plants based on expert recommendations [...]"
And President Bush can be heard saying (Washington Post, May 22nd 2008):
"Our problem in America gets solved if we expand our refining capacity, promote nuclear energy and continue our strategy for the advancement of alternative energies, as well as conservation."
Every once in a while there appears some article like e.g. this one in Scientific American from September 2007
Nuclear Power Reborn
New Jersey-based NRG Energy applies to build the first new nuclear power plant in the U.S. in more than 30 years
"It is a new day for energy in America," David Crane, NRG president and chief executive officer, said after making the application. "Advanced nuclear technology is the only currently viable large-scale alternative to traditional coal-fueled generation to produce none of the traditional air emissions," including the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.
Armed with the backing of the White House and congressional leaders—and subsidies, such as $500 million in risk insurance from the U.S. Department of Energy— the nuclear industry is experiencing a revival in the U.S. As many as 29 new reactors may be added to the current U.S. fleet of 104, according to Bill Borchardt, director of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) office of new reactors. "It is going to be significantly different than it was in the 1970s," he says.
This is not an US-only trend. In Physics Today, February 2006 it is summarized
Stronger Future for Nuclear Power
Nuclear reactor builders are jostling for business as energy utilities take another look at nuclear power.
Some two dozen power plants are scheduled to be built or refurbished during the next five years in Canada, China, several European Union countries, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, and South Africa. In the US and the UK, governmental preparations are under way that may lead to 15 new reactor orders by 2007.
CBS reports (April 2007)
"France: Vive Les Nukes
With power demands rising and concerns over global warming increasing, what the world needs now is an efficient means of producing large amounts of carbon free energy. One of the few available options is nuclear, a technology whose time seemed to come and go and may now be coming again.
For the first time in decades, new nuclear plants are being built, and not just in Iran and North Korea. With zero green house gas emissions, the U.S. government, public utilities and even some environmental groups are taking a second look at nuclear power."
Reuters discusses the waste problem (Jan 2008). USA today comments on the "nuclear rebirth" 131 days ago (can somebody find a date on this site?):
With nuclear rebirth come new worriesAnd today the New York Times reports that Italy Plans to Resume Building Atomic Plants.
Global warming and rocketing oil prices are making nuclear power fashionable, drawing a once demonized industry out of the shadows of the Chernobyl disaster as a potential shining knight of clean energy. [...]
Of the more than 100 nuclear reactors now being built, planned or on order, about half are in China, India and other developing nations. Argentina, Brazil and South Africa plan to expand existing programs; and Vietnam, Thailand, Egypt and Turkey are among the countries considering building their first reactors.
The only thing that surprises me is that there hasn't yet been a more furious outcry.
Finally, here is a special bonus for the Germans from today's Spiegel Online
With the new Italian government saying it wants to pave the way to construct new nuclear power plants, Germany's chancellor says its time for Berlin to rethink its energy policies. It "doesn't make sense," Merkel argues, to take Germany's nuclear plants offline.