Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is sounding the alarm on the country’s ailing nuclear industry, arguing that the rapid closures of plants will have an effect on the environment and grid security.
Nuclear energy, the country’s largest source of emissions-free electricity, is facing its biggest headwinds since the first nuclear plant became operational in the 1950s. Six nuclear plants in the U.S. have retired in the past five years alone, with another 12 reactors scheduled to close down in the next seven years. These closures come at a time when only one nuclear plant is in the process of being built — and even that plant’s fate has been put in jeopardy. (RELATED: America’s Oldest Running Nuclear Power Plant Is About To Shut Down)
Officials in the industry are increasingly becoming concerned about how the collapse of the country’s nuclear fleet will affect carbon emission targets and overall grid reliability.
Murkowski made the case in a Monday op-ed for the Washington Examiner for why a robust nuclear energy industry is vital to American interests, warning of “consequences” unless Washington, D.C., takes action. The Alaska senator introduced legislation on Sept. 6 that would stave off the rapid closures and keep nuclear a major component of the country’s energy mix.
“[W]e are losing a major source of clean, always-on energy at a time when U.S. electricity needs are forecast to grow 29 percent by 2040. No other source, renewable or otherwise, meets anywhere near as much U.S. energy demand without emissions as nuclear power,” Murkowski, chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wrote in the op-ed. “Then there are the global ramifications. Russia, China, and South Korea have now surpassed us, and state-owned corporations are undercutting the United States in both price and time to market.”
To reverse this trend, Murkowski introduced S.3422, better known as the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act. The bill, if passed, would extend the length of time of power purchase agreements to better accommodate for the long life of nuclear facilities. Additionally, it would increase investment in the nuclear sector.
The bipartisan bill enjoys backing from both parties, with West Virginia GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker among the co-sponsors.
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