Skip to main content

Why U.S. Needs Nuclear As Part of "All of the Above" Energy Strategy

Glenn McCullough, Jr.
The following is a guest post by Glenn McCullough, Jr. He served as Mayor of Tupelo, Mississippi and was Chairman of TVA from 2001 - 2005. Currently he is Chairman of the board for NuVision Engineering in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter, @GlennMcCJr.

On January 10, the Weather Channel broadcast an extraordinarily rare headline: “Coldest Temperatures of the Century for Some.” It was referring to the "Polar Vortex," that swept into states as far south as Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia in the early days of the new year.

On the flip side, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration pegged 2012 as the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States. That summer, 99 million Americans experienced at least 10 days of temperatures above 100 degrees.

Here’s the point: extreme weather happens. Whether it’s a deep cold or a stifling heat, Americans deal with varying temperature changes throughout the year. It would be nice if the only thing those shifts affected was our decision to wear a sweater or a t-shirt. Unfortunately, weather variables have enormous impacts on our country’s electric power supply, stability and cost.

When I was appointed to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) board of directors in 1999, I was struck by TVA’s deep and unrelenting commitment toward safe, reliable, and affordable nuclear energy. As a result, the TVA and local power companies are able to keep the lights on year after year for 9 million people throughout the Tennessee Valley.

During my tenure at TVA, we embarked on a strenuous evaluation of every baseload electric generation option, including natural gas and coal, with controls to reduce harmful emissions. In 2002, the board made the decision to restart a reactor that had been offline since 1985. When evaluated for environmental impacts, financial and operational soundness and long-term reliability, restarting the Brown’s Ferry 1 reactor was the best option for future power generation.

The restart was meticulously planned with a $1.8 billion budget and a five-year timeframe. In 2007, Brown’s Ferry 1 was brought back online - both on schedule and on budget. President Bush personally traveled to the facility to commemorate the successful restart.

Today, Brown’s Ferry is reliably generating safe, clean, affordable nuclear energy. That reactor, along with other nuclear energy facility in 31 states, proves that nuclear energy plays a vital role in providing cleaner, reliable, and less expensive electricity for Americans.

Without nuclear energy, in fact, there’s no doubt consumers would have faced widespread electricity shortages during that summer of 2012 and this winter. And with the way our nation’s coal plants are shutting down due to EPA regulation, nuclear energy should play a more significant role in the years ahead.

No matter what the weather brings, Americans need reliable energy, especially in the face of record temperatures. When supply shortages are met with the high demand of summer and winter months, it always leads to higher prices for consumers. In the worst cases, it leads to blackouts. Those are the times we need reliable energy the most.

Currently, 100 reactors produce almost 20 percent of America’s total electricity. Nuclear plants operate safely and are online an industry-leading 91 percent of the time, generating clean, affordable electricity around the clock. That’s more reliable than other any other source of electricity, including natural gas and coal. They also produce nearly two-thirds of all carbon-free electricity nationwide.

It’s time to take a closer look at nuclear energy. It's clear that nuclear energy plays a key role in a balanced electricity production portfolio to power our economic growth and today’s digital lifestyle.

Comments

jimwg said…
Quoting much, but what's this PC Mix pie nonsense? Nobody was crying "Mix" when Oil and Coal alone were fueling cities for generations. Why should nukes' energy contribution be like a pair of crutches for some blamed "Mix"? The nuclear press has to gut up and BELLOW that nukes can power whole cities ALL by themselves, no thanks to any fossil help! You got people and pols who swear you can run cities off sun and wind so why should nuke-only powered cities sound so absurd? Nukes don't have to be part of any PC "mix" when it could be the whole pie! That's what oil and gas are trying to do today! Shout it!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

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…

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.

Huh?

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…