Mid-Life Crisis for Nukes

Designed to last 40 years, U.S. atomic plants face increased maintenance woes and may soon be perilously past their prime

Like many of the technicians and engineers who run them, nuclear power plants in the U.S. are pushing middle age. So far, only nine of the nation's 112 commercial reactors, which were designed and licensed to run for 40 years, have passed the midpoint of their careers. But by 1995, 40 more plants will celebrate their 20th birthday. Because of that, and because no new plants have been ordered since 1978, within four years 44% of America's atomic facilities will be past their prime. At a time when the Bush Administration is pushing for a renewed emphasis on nuclear power, there...

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