A view of the Czech nuclear power plant station Temelin near the South Bohemian city of Tyn nad Vltavou, March 2011.
Peter Josek / REUTERS

Sometime this fall, a U.S. federal bankruptcy judge in New York will decide the fate of Westinghouse, the venerable nuclear power company that failed financially earlier this year. When the decision is made, it will determine something far more important: whether the West will play an active role in mitigating the twin threats of nuclear proliferation and climate change, or instead cede the global market for nuclear energy to Russia. But to succeed, a reorganized Westinghouse will need a management team capable of breaking from the past and adopting a different, well-tested nuclear plant design; as well as the long-term, low-interest financing required to compete with the Russians.

RUSSIA'S GROWING NUCLEAR DOMINANCE

Westinghouse was founded in 1886, but was reorganized in the mid-1990s and owned by various companies until it was finally bought by Japanese conglomerate Toshiba in 2006—at a time when natural gas prices were high and nuclear energy’s prospects looked bright.

Westinghouse declared bankruptcy earlier this year after long construction delays stemming from building an entirely untested new design, the AP-1000, which resulted in significant and ongoing cost overruns during the building of two U.S. plants, one in South Carolina and the other in Georgia.

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  • NICK GALLUCCI is a Nuclear Safeguards and Nonproliferation Policy Analyst at Brookhaven National Lab. MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER is an energy and environmental analyst and President of Environmental Progress.
  • The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Brookhaven National Laboratory or any agency of the U.S. government. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any U.S. government entity. 
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