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Steam billows from the cooling towers at Exelon's nuclear power generating station in Byron, Ill. - 


Bob Moon: Until the price of oil cools way down, though, people are going to be talking about something that was written off in the 80's: Nuclear power.

Today, Congress is revisiting how nuclear plants get approved.

Marketplace's Janet Babin reports from North Carolina Pubic Radio.

Janet Babin: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has had a bit of a dry spell: No new power plant applications from 1978 'til last year. Since then, the NRC's received nine applications and expects another nine this year.

One of the proposals is from Exelon Energy, one of the nation's largest utility companies. It plans to use nuclear power to cut its carbon dioxide emissions.

Exelon's Shelley Keller says this nuclear renaissance is fueled by climate change and by necessity.

Shelley Keller: This country went through a long period where we had too much generating capacity. Now we need to, in fact, be in another build cycle and the nuclear comes back into that equation.

The NRC has tacked on an additional 600 staffers over the past three years to deal with the new applications, but getting approval for a new plant can still take at least three years.

Watchdog groups complain that the NRC only skims the surface of applications.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.