Davis, Lucas W. “Prospects for U.S. Nuclear Power After Fukushima” (August 2011) (Revised version published in Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2012, 26(1), 49-66), WP-218: Full Paper
The prospects for a revival of U.S. nuclear power were dim even before the tragic events at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Nuclear power has long been controversial because of concerns about nuclear accidents, proliferation risk, and the storage of spent fuel. These concerns are real and important. In the end, however, the key challenge for U.S. nuclear power is the high cost of construction for nuclear reactors. This article reviews the historical record of reactor orders and construction costs in the United States, highlighting some of the insights from the cancellations and cost overruns that have characterized the industry.