While it was easy to miss due to the almost complete lack of media coverage, last week the White House released a new roadmap to revive the United States nuclear power industry. This has been a neglected issue for a long time, but the proposal could go a long way towards addressing our needs in this area if properly implemented. The Washington Examiner provided a thorough rundown of the details along with the President’s reasoning in wanting to take these actions. Of course, there were Democrats who immediately slammed the plan, but let’s at least take a look at what’s being put on the table.
The report paints a dire picture of the U.S. nuclear energy industry if policymakers take no action, as more nuclear plants retire due to competition from cheaper natural gas and renewables, while China and Russia expand their fleets.
“The entire U.S. commercial nuclear sector, from mining through power generation, is at high-risk of insolvency,” the report says.
Brouillette says the strategy also recognizes nuclear’s contribution to combating climate change and said the U.S. can’t meet carbon-reduction goals without expanding nuclear. “For any nation to come close to the carbon goals that have been set, we feel strongly nuclear technology has to be part of the energy portfolio,” he said.
Here are some of the biggest items on the agenda boiled down to bullet points:
Expand American uranium production while limiting imports from both Russia and China for obvious national security reasons. This helps our trade balance while limiting their global influence in this huge industry. And given how often Biden slams Trump over trade, you’d think he might be a fan. It also creates more jobs and provides us with new possible exports.
This would help fight climate change because nuclear power doesn’t have a carbon footprint. Democrats constantly blast the president over his supposedly poor environmental record. But nuclear is the cleanest energy we have outside of hydroelectric and we’re nearly maxed out on that already.
Increase exports of nuclear technology to our allies. And yes, that includes Saudi Arabia, much to the dismay of many. But like it or not, they’re going to get the technology and it’s better if they get it from us than to be pushed further into the arms of Russia or China. This would also help our allies to more quickly meet their own carbon emissions goals.
A sensible review of our regulatory restrictions could also make it profitable for energy companies to start building new nuclear plants in the United States. This industry is dying out, taking big chunks out of our power grid in the process. And it’s almost entirely due to overly burdensome regulations that make it virtually impossible to start construction on a new nuclear plant today.
And for those of you wringing your hands and preparing to quote The China Syndrome, I’ll remind you of one thing. During the worst nuclear meltdown (literally) in the history of our country at Three Mile Island, the total amount of radiation released was less than you would get walking from your car to the terminal at the Denver airport on a sunny day. There have been radioactive disasters in other countries, but we don’t use crappy reactor designs that lend themselves to explosions (Chernobyl) or build our plants on fault lines in areas that are regularly hit by tsunamis (Fukushima). We’ve been proving for decades that we can do this safely and the arguments against such progress are paper thin.
So why are there still so many people opposing this? Just because the Bad Orange Man suggested it?