Save Nuclear Power With National Incentive Policy
Back on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, I was three years out of college and working for Western Electric as an electrical engineer.
But I’ll remember that Wednesday forever. That was the day the Three Mile Island Unit 2 nuclear reactor suffered a partial meltdown.
The Middletown, Pennsylvania, disaster was all over the local and national news. My wife and I were very concerned.
You see, we lived just 111 miles directly downwind from the plant site. Not knowing how bad the accident was, many residents left the area.
As it turns out, the Three Mile Island accident was the least damaging of recent nuclear accidents. Compared with the fallout of Chernobyl and Fukushima, recovery from the Three Mile Island accident has been a walk in the park.
It still left a sour taste in my mouth for nuclear power. Let’s face it… the waste is toxic for 50,000 years or so.
But without nuclear power, the U.S. would probably be belching a lot more pollutants into the atmosphere. Our contribution to global warming would be much greater.
Even with those three big accidents in mind, nuclear power generation is generally a safe and reliable form of baseload generation.
So why isn’t the U.S. building out its nuclear fleet?
But 17 of those states are home to unprofitable or retired plants…
Here’s the thing: Nuclear power plants are being prematurely closed. Their operating costs make them too expensive for utilities to run them. Without adequate rates of return, utilities have no choice but to close them.
Some of them will be replaced with low-cost, natural gas-fired power plants that emit greenhouse gases and other pollutants.
Achieving deep carbon emission cuts means decreasing our use of fossil fuels, not increasing them.
As I see it, nuclear energy’s importance to America’s clean energy mix needs to be recognized and rewarded.
The only way to do that is to enact both state and federal carbon-reduction policies. Meaning any power-generation source that reduces carbon production will get rewarded.
To be sure, such policies would reward renewables like solar and wind. But nuclear power would also benefit.
This would level the playing field for all generating technologies. It would also make carbon capture and storage a potentially viable undertaking.
Compare the above scenario with the Trump administration’s idea of directly bailing out coal-fired plants. That does nothing to reduce carbon emissions… just the opposite, in fact.
Implementing a carbon price keeps our nuclear power plants profitable. And it helps the U.S. meet emission reductions expected by the Paris climate agreement – which we could adhere to even though Trump pulled out of it.
This is an important national issue. And it’s critical for investors too.
Without a fix, investing in nuclear power and supporting industries will be a dead end.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Please share in the comments section.