Skip to main content

Message Sent and Received on Nuclear Value

It’s one thing for nuclear advocates to say that nuclear energy should be correctly valued as a carbon dioxide-free energy source. This means not just any new plants that will happen along, but, as important, those now in service. If the Environmental Protection Agency does not get this right in its upcoming rules covering emissions from electricity generators, it potentially could harm its goal.
If a nuclear facility is lost, then so is all that emission free energy and it puts their host states at a disadvantage at hitting their emission reduction targets. The relatively low cost of natural gas can seem appealing from one angle but not quite so attractive when it is filling in for a nuclear facility and not a coal plant. The emissions profile changes for the worse in the former case. 
Among energy mavens, this has become glaringly apparent. Here’s American Nuclear Society President Michaele Brady Raap:
The EPA proposal is laudable in many respects, but it needs significant adjustment before it is enacted. Simply put, the rule fails to fully take into account the role nuclear energy plays in delivering large amounts of reliable, economically competitive electricity with no carbon emissions during reactor operations. In fact, the rule as it is currently structured almost entirely discounts more than 90 percent of the clean energy contributions from our existing nuclear energy facilities.
She’s right – and it’s an interesting article – and by writing for Roll Call, she’s reaching the right audience. It heartening that outlets like ANS and NEI are getting the message out. But it will only work if the nuclear-faithful can make the case to – hmmm, well, the more-or-less nuclear-neutral will have to do.
But that’s the interesting thing. The message is breaking through:
State lawmakers expressed concern Wednesday that proposed federal regulations to cut carbon emissions from power plants will hurt Virginia’s economic competiveness.
The Senate and House held a joint committee meeting Wednesday to hear from state officials, energy companies and environmentalists on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
When I read this, my mind went to coal, since Virginia, while not what you’d call coal country, still has plenty of it. But no, here’s the next paragraph:
Lawmakers said the EPA’s current target levels for emission cuts penalize Virginia for its robust nuclear energy production. The zero-emission nuclear energy production accounts for 40 percent of the electric energy produced in Virginia.
That would be via Surrey and North Anna.
Legislators said the federal agency’s Virginia target rate of carbon emissions per megawatt hour of energy production is unfair in light of the higher target rates the federal agency has set for neighboring states that are more dependent on coal-fired gas plants.
That would be coal country – Kentucky and West Virginia. And Virginia’s lawmakers have a point. What’s the point of limiting emissions if it provides no particular relief or has no real value? Honestly, the goal here is not to let states like Virginia off the hooh, and the article explains that Gov. Terry McAuliffe doesn’t mind if Virginia has to lower emissions more. That seems judicious enough – but McAuliffe does complain that the proposed rule doesn’t give nuclear energy its just due. If more state legislators and executives start raising a fuss, good. It’s a fair point and it’s valuable that the message spread beyond energy wonks.
---
A brief bit:
A group of seven Harvard student activists filed a lawsuit on Wednesday alleging that the University is violating its original charter through continued investment in fossil fuels and asked a court to force Harvard to “immediately withdraw” its holdings in the industry.
You can read the rest to see what this is all about. It feels more symbolic than substantive to me, but who knows? I do know that efforts to completely banish what we do not like is not the best impulse in most cases. It basically ends debate and declares the losing side as good as dead. Coal is far from dead, no matter what its Harvard critics might prefer. (The divestiture issue when I was in college was South African Krugerrands, so it’s a well-worn approach. I don’t remember lawsuits about it, though.) Even when we agree with a goal, this approach is uncomfortably definitive in a stubbornly undefinitive world.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

New Home for Our Blog: Join Us on NEI.org

On February 27, NEI launched the new NEI.org. We overhauled the public site, framing all of our content around the National Nuclear Energy Strategy.

So, what's changed?

Our top priority was to put you, the user, first. Now you can quickly get the information you need. You'll enjoy visiting the site with its intuitive navigation, social media integration and compelling and shareable visuals. We've added a feature called Nuclear Now, which showcases the latest industry news and resources like fact sheets and reports. It's one of the first sections you'll see on our home page and it can be accessed anywhere throughout the site by clicking on the atom symbol in the top right corner of the page.
Most importantly for you, our loyal NEI Nuclear Notes readers, is that we've migrated the blog to the new site. Moving forward, all blog posts will be published in the News section, along with our press releases, Nuclear Energy Overview stories and more. Just look for the &qu…

Hurricane Harvey Couldn't Stop the South Texas Project

As Hurricane Harvey battered southeast Texas over the past week, the devastation and loss of life in its wake have kept our attention and been a cause of grief.

Through the tragedy, many stories of heroics and sacrifice have emerged. Among those who have sacrificed are nearly 250 workers who have been hunkered down at the South Texas Project (STP) nuclear plant in Matagorda County, Texas.

STP’s priorities were always the safety of their employees and the communities they serve. We are proud that STP continued to operate at full power throughout the storm. It is a true testament to the reliability and resiliency of not only the operators but of our industry.

The world is starting to notice what a feat it is to have maintained operations through the catastrophic event. Forbes’ Rod Adams did an excellent job describing the contribution of these men and women:

“STP storm crew members deserve to be proud of the work that they are doing. Their families should take comfort in the fact that…