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

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 …

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 Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.


Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …