Nuclear power may face an economic meltdown

Sunday - 7/21/2013, 10:28pm EDT

WASHINGTON - A new report indicates that nuclear power may be facing a very uncertain future.

It's not environmental opposition or safety issues that could kill it, but the economy, says energy economics analyst and consumer advocate Mark Cooper.

"We have a significant quantity of much lower-cost electricity available today," Cooper says. He points to natural gas and wind power as major examples.

Cooper's report says more than three dozen nuclear reactors in 23 states - including Calvert Cliffs, in Lusby, Md. - are at risk of early retirement because they are too expensive to run and maintain.

Cooper says that the March 2011 Fukushima power plant accident "reminds people about the never-ending struggle between nuclear safety and nuclear economics."

He adds that the utility companies are going to base any decision to close a nuclear power plant on what it means for shareholders, not necessarily what it means for consumers.

The last new nuclear power plant to go on line was in Tennessee in 1996, though several others are being built or are planned.

Cooper says it could be several decades before nuclear reactors are no longer part of the country's power grid.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter.