One major factor driving the cautious stance of both the industry and the government is the fall in electricity demand, which peaked in 2007. In 2009, demand dropped by more than 4 percent from 2007. So far, it seems that demand in 2010 will be higher than last year, but not as high as 2007. These are big changes for an industry that is accustomed to growth on the order of 1 to 3 percent a year. With slack demand, there is less urgency to build new plants.
...Also weighing on the nuclear industry is the unwillingness of Congress to pass climate change legislation that would put a price of some sort on carbon-dioxide emissions. Since nuclear power produces no carbon emissions, it would gain a competitive edge against coal and natural gas if a bill were passed. But while such legislation once seemed likely, sharp divisions in Congress and concerns about the tottering economy have stalled its prospects [Matthew L. Wald, "Economy Sandbags Plans for Nuclear Reactors," New York Times, 2010.10.10].
We shouldn't be too disappointed by the recession cutting demand to the point where new generating capacity isn't so urgent: that real conservation delays the need for any kind of new power plant, coal, nuke, or otherwise. And there's a big debate over whether nuclear power should play a role in fighting climate change and our fossil-fuel addiction.
But for those of you who dig nuclear power, remember: blocking cap-and-trade and energy security legislation this year means you'll be waiting that much longer for those nice next-generation nuclear plants to come humming to life in your backyard.