Skip to main content

Reversing the Nuclear Reversal of Fortune

Staggering, how fortune can reverse:

The change in nuclear's fortunes is staggering, given that the U.S. is the world's largest producer of nuclear power, according to the World Nuclear Association. The country's 104 reactors account for more than 30 percent of nuclear electricity generation worldwide.

Which to me reads as, “it’s amazing nuclear energy is so successful given what a rank failure it is.” Downright staggering, in fact.

The reversal of fortune, which has reared up is one article or another at least once a month since the Fukushima Daiichi accident, has always been about 80 percent rhetorical, essentially a way to render nuclear energy irrelevant even as it refuses to actually be irrelevant.

It can take a lot of forms, but variations on this one are frequent enough to note:

Decreased consumption, increased energy efficiency, wind and solar, with back up from geothermal, hydropower, and biomass will get us to zero coal, zero nuclear, minimal carbon dioxide.

Which sounds so very, very good, doesn’t it? In reality, though, it is the solution of a resource-wealthy people in a rich, industrialized country. It makes one feel justified in one’s choices, in the way choosing a salad instead of a pastrami sandwich for lunch can make one feel justified – because one has those choices. It gives a perceived deprivation a tang of the saintly.

But that’s not true in much of the world, where deprivation – of energy and a lot else – is endemic. And it won’t really work. We can get to “minimal carbon dioxide” but not through feel-good solutions alone. And the rest of the world must be allowed to electrify and industrialize – the developed world can’t choose now to shut down progress in the developing world  (and couldn’t succeed at doing so anyhow.)

Really, a better way to trace the fortunes of nuclear energy is to depend on what is simply true – which is often pretty upbeat:

Exelon Generation said Wednesday that it has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for 20-year license extensions at its Byron and Braidwood generating stations, which would allow the plants to operate into the middle of the century.

You’ll notice that Exelon doesn’t seem too staggered by nuclear energy’s reversal of fortune.

And this:

A recent poll of 2,034 people in the UK showed broad overall support for new nuclear plants, with more people in favor of public subsidies for reactor development than opposed to them.

And okay, there’s this too:

Hundreds of anti-nuke protesters rallied in the Taiwanese capital Taipei calling to vote down a referendum bill and terminate the launch of the island’s fourth nuclear power plant, amid mounting concerns since the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

So not always upbeat. But not, in aggregate, indicating a slide into irrelevance.

Maybe we should just not see energy choices as having reversible fortunes, like champion dogs at the dog race. Some days are better than others, but most of them are pretty similar and not especially grim.

Comments

trag said…
That's some good news, and some bad news,but the relevant question is:

When is the NEI going to stop being an observer and start taking an active role in forming public opinion about nuclear electricity generation. This article does a great job of reporting that there is an anti-nuclear publication at least once a month out in the public eye claiming that we can live without nuclear power.

Where is NEI's public service announcements, newsletters, paid advertisements, or anything outside of these blogs which tells a pro-nuclear story to counter the lies in those monthly anti-nuclear articles.

Reporting that NEI has noticed the anti-nuclear activity and then refuting it here in front of your choir keeps our spirits up, but does nothing to solve the larger public relations problem.

Get to work.
Anonymous said…
I've seen lots of NEI ads on TV and in print in recent years, as well as corporate sponsorships of NASCAR competitors etc. Maybe you just don't get out much?

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…