Nuclear Renaissance? Contemporary Geography of the U.S. Nuclear Energy Industry Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Marshall, Lisa
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geography
  • The U.S. nuclear energy industry is engaged in practices and policies to invigorate the material and discursive nuclear landscape. The year 2000 marked the beginning of a contemporary resurgence with operating license renewals for Calvert Cliffs and Oconee nuclear power plants. These actions were closely followed by legislations that underwrote research and development of an improved fuel cycle (the 2003 Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative) and new nuclear construction (the 2005 Energy Policy Act). Industrializing nations such as China moved into a rapid development phase dominated by U.S. based technologies (two EPR Areva and four Westinghouse AP 1000 designs). Domestic construction of four Westinghouse AP 1000 reactors commenced in 2012 at the Vogtle, GA and VC Summer, SC sites. Correspondingly, counter-arguments have impacted the production of nuclear space – proliferation concerns, nuclear waste management (the 2008 halt to the Yucca Mountain National Repository) along with past and recent nuclear accidents at Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011) as well as nation states phasing out of nuclear (Germany and Italy). The last decade and a half has reintroduced the question of U.S. nuclear energy industry’s expansion, survival or exit. Thus in my thesis, I examine – 1. What is the geography of the contemporary U.S. nuclear energy industry? 2. What work does this industry do in the world, and how is this work reflected in current geographies of nuclear energy, real and imagined? 3. How is the industry (re)producing space for future significance? Has it been successful and why? Is the nuclear renaissance in the U.S. alive? Is the industry expanding, surviving, and/or on the way out? Through a mapping project of the nuclear industrial enterprise – operating or under construction power plants, engineering firms, national laboratories, the regulatory agency, colleges, and professional organizations – this thesis will produce an original mapping of companies in the U.S. and their presence in key global markets. Then through a discursive analysis of governmental and industrial literature, my analysis examines how the U.S. nuclear industry has positioned itself in an appeal for efficient and effective energy systems and in arguments for national security/international influence and environmental protectionism. In depth interviews, representing various facets of industry and oppositional voices, provide an illustrative look into key current nuclear energy perspectives. The U.S. nuclear industry is at a crossroads and the influence of government, managerial and public views will define its path moving forward. This thesis assesses some of the variables and intersections involved in the story-thus-far.
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  • In Copyright
  • Kirsch, Scott
  • Valdivia, Gabriela
  • Pickles, John
  • Master of Arts
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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