CBSN

Finding Electricity Elsewhere

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AP
At a plastics plant in New Jersey, they're producing shopping bags -- and their own electricity. That's right, enough electric power to keep a $500 million a year business in business.

"We could run two out of our three plants if there was a blackout in New Jersey," said Mark Teo of Alpha Industries, the plastics firm in question.

Alpha Industries installed what's called a co-generational system long before California's blackout and talk of an energy shortage was only a whisper, CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

Fueled by natural gas, the system churns out electricity 30 percent cheaper than the local power companies. Smaller versions will be available to homeowners and small businesses in about three years.

"There's no silver bullet today. Not here yet, (but) this is absolutely part of the solution," said Jeffrey Barat of D&B Engineering, which makes the system.

The solution, analysts say, will be a mix of new technology with technology from the past, and for that very reason, nuclear power plants are making a comeback in America.

"There really is a renaissance for the use of nuclear energy in this country," said Angelina Howard of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

It's an astonishing thing to hear, especially since nuclear power fell out of favor following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

Today there are 103 nuclear power plants operating in the U.S. producing almost 20 percent of the nation's electric power. Dozens more could come back on-line soon.

In the meantime, Alpha industries will keep making it's own electric power — with one regret: They never installed the system at their plastics plant in Southern California.

"I wish we could say that we were geniuses and saw this coming," Teo said.