Tallying the cost of antinuclear sentiments

By Matt MacCaughey, Guest Author

I am a passionate pro-nuclear advocate with an engineering degree from UMaine, along with two minors in renewable energy. I am working in the energy sector now doing mostly safety work for nuclear plants and a few fossil as well. I strongly believe nuclear as THE key part of the climate solution and global energy poverty. Which is why I am so passionate about it.

I am new to the Climate Coalition but I have been meaning to write this post for a very long time. I know it’s not good to dwell on what could of been, but I think that what I am about to share will give all of you some perspective on the true importance of nuclear and what our energy mix could have looked like.

(Click to see the document.)

While I was helping out at a nuclear outage in the fall, I came across a very interesting list posted on a wall: NRC Information Digest (NUREG-1350, Volume 23), Appendix C: Cancelled U.S. Commercial Nuclear Plants.

I went onto the NRC’s website and got the most recent copy of this (Volume 31). Keep in mind there are a few errors. This list contains the name and location of every nuclear plant/reactor that was either started and stopped or never started at all (aka canceled). It is pretty remarkable because when you add up the amount of rated capacity that was planned but never realized it equates over 106 GWe!!!

In other words if these reactors had been built, nuclear would make up over 40% of the electricity mix in the U.S.—double what it is now—and many sites that are now one or two unit plants would be three or four unit plants instead. Astonishingly, Palo Verde, the largest nuclear plant in the US today, would have had a total of FIVE units compared to its three now. Please also keep in mind that I have only been referring to the Gen II reactors planned. This doesn’t included the Gen III/III+ reactors cancelled which is over 20 GWe (located on the last page or two).

Just to give some more perspective—on top of what was built, is still operating, or has been decommissioned, there were over 8 GWe worth of capacity planned and cancelled in New England. Which means if we only operated those cancelled reactors, nuclear would have completely decarbonized baseload in the region.

Separately, when you add up all of the cancelled reactors in Texas (not counting Comanche Peak 3 & 4), there were 9,876 MWe planned and cancelled. With the four reactors already built, that would have been more than enough to help Texas maintain power throughout this last storm and take pressure demand for things like natural gas.

Never let people say that nuclear isn’t needed. Because if all of the reactors in this list got built (or were being built):

– Over 50% of the electricity supply would be clean

– We would be way ahead on our climate goals

– The number of air-pollution related deaths would be drastically lower

– The US would be a much stronger leader in nuclear energy

– Several regions would have better electricity prices

– Things would be flat out better

Lets keep flighting the good fight, protect the reactors we now have and get new reactors built.