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An assessment of the determination of energy needs: The case of nuclear power


The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) forced the Atomic Energy Commission, and subsequently the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to weigh costs and benefits of proposed nuclear power plants. This paper examines how the Commission has developed a framework for decision making in response to the NEPA mandate. Its principal conclusions are that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not interested in being in the business of assessing power needs, and that regulating need by electricity source is counterproductive. If the question of power needs should be addressed at all, the paper argues that a more general framework should be used which would apply to all new facilities. Such a framework would allow a utility to build the plant of its choice, subject to satisfaction of existing regulations, after it is determined that sufficient demand exists.

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This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Quality Laboratory at Caltech. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Conference on the Economics of Nuclear Power Regulation at the Brookings Institution. I wish to thank Roger Noll, James Krier and Gary Miller for their helpful comments. Any remaining errors are solely my responsibility.

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Hahn, R.W. An assessment of the determination of energy needs: The case of nuclear power. Policy Sci 13, 9–24 (1981).

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  • Decision Making
  • Power Plant
  • Economic Policy
  • Nuclear Power Plant
  • General Framework