The U.S. is leading a drive to promote nuclear power around the world, showcasing the Trump administration’s recognition of nuclear technology as a crucial source of zero-carbon electricity.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette launched an initiative Thursday, along with other international partners, that aims to “highlight the value of nuclear energy as a clean reliable energy source.” Participating countries include Canada, Japan, South Africa, Russia, Poland, the United Arab Emirates, Romania and Argentina. Their goal will be to boost the progression of technologies like hybrid nuclear-renewable systems and improve on power system integration.
“Nuclear-renewable systems could link emission-free nuclear power plants with variable renewables like solar or wind farms and could allow nuclear power to backstop intermittent generation,” Brouillette stated during an energy summit in Copenhagen. The Energy Deputy Secretary added that another focus will be the development of small modular reactors.
The announcement follows actions taken by numerous politicians to protect nuclear energy within American shores. The industry has faced headwinds as natural gas has emerged in recent years as an extremely competitive alternative. The Energy Information Administration projects nuclear output to drop in the U.S. as plants retire. State governments and the White House have considered numerous options to save unprofitable nuclear reactors.
New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy just signed into law a sweeping subsidies bill that gives his state’s three nuclear plants $300 million a year, calling it a “down payment” on the clean energy. New Jersey follows other states that have taken similar measures, such as Illinois and New York.
The Trump administration is considering whether to bail out a string of nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania that are slated to shut down unless help is given. FirstEnergy, the plants’ owner, has called out for federal assistance in rescuing their plants, suggesting their closure could risk grid reliability. (RELATED: Report: Nuclear Plant Closures Will Hurt The Environment)
The idea of nuclear energy divides environmentalists. Organizations like Sierra Club stand “unequivocally opposed to nuclear energy.” But other groups, like Environmental Progress, believe nuclear energy to be pivotal in reducing the world’s carbon emissions. Michael Shellenberger — the president of Environmental Progress and a California Democratic gubernatorial candidate — continually makes the case that nuclear reactors have far less of an ecological impact than solar or wind technology. The Ivanpah solar farm located in California, for example, requires 5,000 times more land, per unit of energy produced, than Diablo Canyon, the state’s last nuclear plant.
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