Skip to main content

Using Nuclear to Reduce Oil Dependence

My colleague William Skaff pointed me to a report (available for purchase online) published by the Council on Foreign Relations called National Security Consequences of U.S. Oil Dependency.

The report was written by an Independent Task Force that was formed “to examine the consequences of dependence on imported energy for U.S. foreign policy.”

The overview of the report at the website states that the Task Force concluded that
The lack of sustained attention to energy issues is undercutting U.S. foreign policy and national security.
The issues at stake intimately affect U.S. foreign policy, as well as the strength of the American economy and the state of the global environment. But most of the leverage potentially available to the United States is through domestic policy. Thus the Independent Task Force devotes considerable attention to how oil consumption (or at least the growth in consumption) can be reduced, and why and how energy issues must become better integrated with other aspects of U.S. foreign policy.
Of greatest interest to me is the fact that the Task Force found a direct correlation between nuclear energy and the reduction of oil imports for transportation. The report says
Electric cars and plug-in hybrids require attention to the sources of electricity. Conventional coal-fired electricity (which accounts for the majority of the U.S. power supply) emits CO2. Advanced coal technologies that make it possible to capture and sequester most of the CO2 underground are still in their infancy. Some forms of renewable energy, for example, wind, which emits no CO2, may play an increasing role in the electric grid. At this time, however, most renewable energy projects are not commercially viable without subsidies or regulatory mandates. If the new incremental electric power–generating capacity required for vehicles is fired with natural gas, then electrification could merely shift dependence on imported oil to dependence on imported gas. If the electricity generation is by nuclear power, then a transition to electric and plug-in cars displaces oil. Thus, nuclear power, among other electric power supply options, offers an important long-term pathway to displacing oil as a transportation fuel.
And one of its later recommendations is
The Task Force believes that the United States should make greater use of nuclear power. With high natural gas prices and concern about CO2 emissions, there is renewed interest in nuclear power. In the near term, new nuclear plants will be ordered and built only if the U.S. government is successful in making clear progress on nuclear waste management, creating a reasonable regulatory framework for licensing nuclear plants with acceptable safety risk, and meeting proliferation concerns. In turn, the additional electricity supply will eventually make it easier to achieve greater substitution of electricity for oil, such as through use of plug-in hybrid cars and other cost effective electricity-based transportation technologies.


Robert Schwartz said…
A pdf of the report may be downloaded from that web page, gratis.
Anonymous said…
Nuclear power does NOT have a direct link on oil dependence. It's a secondary link at best. The use of more electric cars would, but with prices of electric cars being so high it doesn't change the use of oil by americans.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.


The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.

What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot., the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.

From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…