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Nuclear, The Clean Power Plan and the Press

NewsboyHow has the Clean Power Plan gone over in the press? In general, pretty well, though the response tends to scan with a paper’s view of other subjects, such as their views on coal-fired energy and climate change.

The New York Times, not always the best friend of the atom, rather grudgingly finds a place for nuclear energy.

It [the plan] will shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants and give fresh momentum to carbon-free energy sources like wind and solar power, and possibly next-generation nuclear plants.

You know what? This-generation nuclear plants fill the bill. But we’ll take it – possibly.

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The only paper we saw that went a bit further on nuclear was the Virginia Beach Pilot, which includes a quote from Dominion’s CEO.

“The compliance targets for Virginia have moved in a positive direction that fairly recognizes the role of natural gas generation in reducing emissions,” said Thomas F. Farrell the utility’s chief executive. “The administration missed an opportunity, however, to provide appropriate incentives to ensure the viability of the existing nuclear fleet that is critical to meeting the goals of the Clean Power Plan.”

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Mark Perry writes (furiously) in his op-ed column in the Detroit News:

No amount of pious rhetoric about reducing the nation’s carbon footprint can disguise the fact that the president’s plan provides no incentives for utilities to build new nuclear plants or renew the licenses of existing nuclear plants like Fermi 2. In contrast, the Obama plan subsidizes solar, wind and energy efficiency.

Never mind that there’s a growing body of research showing that the cost of solar and wind are expected to rise as they become a larger percentage of the electricity grid, due to the high cost of bringing on intermittent sources of energy. Further leave aside the fact that neither solar nor wind generate energy when the weather isn’t cooperating.

I’ve seen variations of this argument at several sites – see this piece by Jeff McMahon at Forbes for more. It does no harm to sound the klaxon, though we’ll have to see the extent to which states recognize the value of nuclear energy as a climate change agent. It’s too soon to assume it will be neutral or worse.

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We might do a fuller review of academic responses in the future, but this one is unusually interesting and worth pointing out. 

Harvard Business School Professor Joe Lassiter believes nuclear power is an essential ingredient in fighting the worldwide threat of coal-fired power plant emissions. Lassiter, the Senator John Heinz Professor of Management Practice (Retired) at HBS, has spent more than a decade studying the intersection between immediate energy needs and environmental concerns. 

There’s a video at the site with Lassiter explaining his position.

"There's presently a billion private dollars invested in nuclear energy in North America today," he says, adding a minute later that "nuclear is ripe for disruption."

Provocative stuff.

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From the Peoria Journal-Star

Coal was the source of half the nation’s energy a decade ago, now that’s at 39 percent and dropping, thanks to the emergence of much cleaner natural gas, wind power and nuclear.

And a bit more:

If opponents intend to argue states’ rights, well, the White House establishes goals here, not how to get to them — alternative energies, nuclear, cap and trade, fuel efficiency standards, all the above? — meaning they can be the laboratories we’ve long heard states’ rights proponents insist they’re supposed to be.

That’s kind of novel – not exactly what states rights advocates have in mind, I think. Frankly, most editorials have focused on the perils of/for coal as their main subject. I suspect nuclear energy – and its cousins in the renewable sphere - will figure more heavily as states bruit their solutions.

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