The Wall Street Journals say that supporters claim that reforms would allow the industry to scale up and reduce costs. But skeptics say market forces working against the industry are too strong. Here’s one sign that nuclear energy has been struggling: Operators shut down six reactors in recent years before their licenses expired, and announced plans for several other early closings, according to the Energy Department. Reasons given include competition from natural gas, burdensome regulation and market structures.
Only new state subsidies can prevent more closings, plant operators have said. Still, nuclear plants produced almost 20% of total U.S. electrical output in 2016, and 63% of carbon-free electricity. Faced with global warming, many agree nuclear offers the most efficient renewable alternative to carbon-based fuels. Meanwhile, the new administration has promised to help the industry with incentives and reduced regulation. So, will nuclear lead the way, or won’t it?
Rich Powell, executive director of the ClearPath Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes conservative clean-energy solutions, believes nuclear energy has a robust future in the U.S. Arguing the other side, Jason Bordoff, a former senior director with the National Security Council and special assistant to President Barack Obama, believes nuclear’s future to be far less certain.
YES: It’s Competitive and Necessary
By Rich Powell
The future of U.S. nuclear power is bright—and nonnegotiable. A robust civilian nuclear sector is mandatory for the U.S. to remain a major geopolitical, economic, military and environmental leader. After decades of policy neglect, Washington is finally addressing what is both a national and global necessity and a tremendous opportunity.
Bipartisan political support is growing to reform new reactor licensing and improve tax incentives for new nuclear facilities, led in Congress by clean-energy advocates as well as national-security and energy-reliability hawks. The new administration has taken bold action to support nuclear energy, including expanding federal financing for the two reactors being built in Georgia and proposing that regulators change the way electricity is priced so that nuclear and coal-fired plants can earn more based on plant resiliency.
Market pricing reform would be an important step in helping to restructure power markets and bring an end to the closures of reactors seen in recent years. Current markets undervalue the greater reliability of nuclear energy in the face of natural disasters—true resilience likely comes with greater capital cost. New plants would also be tremendously aided by proposals for improved tax incentives backed by the White House that would benefit deployment of nearly 4 gigawatts of advanced nuclear power.
Read on ,,,
NO: It Is Up Against Too Many Forces
By Jason Bordoff
A decade ago, nuclear power appeared to be on the verge of a renaissance in the U.S. The Energy Information Administration projected U.S. nuclear power generation would grow 13% from 2005 to 2020. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was preparing to receive dozens of applications to build new reactors, the first in decades. Toshiba bought Westinghouse for $5.4 billion and had plans to install 45 new reactors world-wide by 2030. He believes a strong nuclear-power sector would benefit the U.S. But the truth is, the industry is in crisis—and the signs don’t look good for it turning around. In the past five years, six reactors (at five plants) have been closed, and operators have announced plans to shut down several more. The list is likely to grow, as more than half of America’s nuclear plants are reportedly losing money.
Moreover, all plans to build new reactors have been scrapped, save for two in Georgia, and their future is uncertain without major federal support. (But this has been funded). Westinghouse, the designer of the reactors there, is in bankruptcy proceedings. And the Energy Information Administration now projects the share of nuclear in our electricity mix to fall by nearly half through 2050, to 11% from a current 20%. Even that outlook may be optimistic. China, meanwhile, has several dozen nuclear plants in development and hundreds planned in China and around the world...
What happened? First, and most important, the shale revolution has delivered natural-gas prices far below what had been expected, undermining the competitiveness of nuclear power in deregulated markets. Second, electricity demand, which back in 2005 had been expected to grow nearly 2% a year, instead has been roughly stagnant, a result of increased efficiency and slower economic growth. Third, renewable-energy costs have fallen far more steeply than most projected. Fourth, the lack of a meaningful price on carbon means that the cost of power from fossil fuels doesn’t reflect its full cost to society. Finally, public support of nuclear power has waned.
Read on ...for both positions in the article.