The gradual closure of U.S. nuclear power plants endangers American energy security and global climate goals, The American Interest points out in an August 2 article. The best solution is to facilitate the construction of small modular reactors to replace aging large reactors, the conservative publication asserts.
“Though routine maintenance and the occasional unforeseen issue might produce reactor outages, in total the nuclear wedge of our energy pie is as reliable as power sources come. It’s also shrinking, as an entire generation of reactors nears the end of its life cycle,” The American Interest reports.
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“Over the past four years, five reactors have come offline, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg—six more are expected to shut down by 2025, and in the decades beyond dozens more will be forced to follow suit as a result of their age,” the publication explains.
Nuclear power fares extremely well in a full-spectrum environmental analysis. While less expensive and more reliable than wind and solar power, nuclear power is environmentally comparable to solar power and environmentally superior to wind power.
Despite fear-mongering from some anti-nuclear activists, nuclear power is remarkably safe, The American Interest notes. “The Oxford-affiliated Our World In Data , ‘If we want to produce energy with the lowest negative health impacts, which source of energy should we choose?’ Its answer: nuclear power. Per unit of power generated, nuclear power produced far fewer deaths—from air pollution or accidents—than any other baseload energy source.”
“Nuclear power is a safe and consistent energy option, and is in fact empirically the safest baseload source we have,” the publication reports.
There is hope in the effort to change the minds of anti-nuclear environmentalists, The American Interest observes. “The modern environmental movement was born out of a deep skepticism of the energy source, and it has worked diligently and effectively to stoke fears of nuclear power and strengthen the NIMBYist impulse in communities adjacent to reactors. But as climate change continues its ascendancy into becoming the most dominant environmental issue of the day, many greens are starting to change their minds on nuclear power, choosing to put aside their fears in favor of the extraordinary work nuclear has done in the U.S. and around the world to reduce emissions.”
Nuclear power is especially important to global warming goals. “Nuclear power is, next to hydroelectricity, the only source of consistent zero-emissions electricity, and that necessarily makes it the backbone of any sort of sustainable future energy mix. To put it bluntly, you cannot in good conscience advocate for a low-carbon future without including nuclear power in your plans. It’s that important,” the publication notes.
Economically, small modular reactors offer a more promising future than large facilities that have been plagued by cost overruns: “Our best hope for a medium-term fix to our aging nuclear problem are small, modular reactors. These are another recent breakthrough that seem closer to reality: imagine powering an entire neighborhood with an energy source that could be loaded onto the back of a semi-truck. These smaller nuclear reactors would involve smaller capital costs and shorter construction times, and could be deployed in more places to tailor to shifts in energy demand.”
As part of a diversified energy mix, it is important to remember that nuclear power supplies 20 percent of America’s electricity. As a lower-cost alternative to zero-emissions competitors wind and solar power, new nuclear power technologies deserve attention and a friendly regulatory environment.