Indicators showing that support for nuclear is growing, especially in light of climate change
Nuclear energy has been falsely maligned for decades and is widely considered the “black sheep” of clean energy. Envisioned by Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy as the technology that would save us from the threats of Middle East oil embargoes and “peak oil,” atomic energy’s relationship with nuclear bombs, its tremendous power and technological complexity, have made it easy fodder for competitors and antiwar protestors to vilify it and exaggerate its dangers. With mounting evidence of the enormity of the climate threat and mortal dangers posed by our continued use of carbon-emitting energies, nuclear’s zero-carbon energy is beginning to enjoy a comeback in popularity. The following table depicts milestones in the mounting evidence of rising support for nuclear power and a turning of the anti-nuclear tides.
DATE & DESCRIPTION
According to Gavin Bade of Utility Wire, Ohio Republicans are reportedly circulating legislation that would provide financial support to FirstEnergy’s two nuclear plants slated for closure in the state. A draft version of the bill would create an “Ohio clean air program” that would provide a total of $300 million annually to the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants through customer bill surcharges. The Ohio draft legislation is the latest in a string of state efforts to preserve retiring nuclear generation in the face of inaction from the federal government. New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut have all approved nuclear supports in recent years and Pennsylvania is considering similar legislation. As in those states, the Ohio bill would create a clean energy program that would reward nuclear plants for their carbon-free generation. Residential customers would pay a $2.50 monthly surcharge to support the plants, while commercial customers would pay $20 and industrial customers $250.
President Donald Trump signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act into law Monday. The bill, which is meant to streamline regulatory processes for commercial nuclear power plants, received support from both the public and private nuclear energy sector. The bill directs the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the independent federal agency that regulates nuclear energy operations, to modernize its licensing rules. The law establishes new NRC budget and fee structures and a revised licensing framework for advanced next generation nuclear reactors. “This legislation establishes a more equitable and transparent funding structure which will benefit all operating reactors and future licensees,” said Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington D.C.-based nuclear technology policy organization. Additionally, the bill directs the NRC to improve the efficiency of uranium regulation and disposal.
From Mary C. Serreze writing in Mass Live: Gov. Dannel Malloy on Friday announced the winners of a major clean energy procurement, and the selection of Millstone Power Station in Connecticut and Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in New Hampshire effectively secured the role of atomic power in the state’s climate strategy. The clean energy procurements, mandated by the state legislature, are equal to 45 percent of Connecticut’s total electric load. More than 80 percent of the new carbon-free energy will be sourced from nuclear power.
“Make no mistake, we are facing a climate crisis with the future of the planet at stake,” said Malloy in a statement. “Despite President Trump’s refusal to listen to scientists on this matter, the reality is that urgent and significant action is needed to dramatically reduce our dependence on carbon-based energy sources. In addition, we need to increase investments in clean energy like offshore wind, solar, and grid-scale storage. Should we fail to do so, we will fail to prevent the catastrophic outcomes that will result from climate change.”
According to David Roberts writing at Vox,“For the first time, a major US utility has committed to 100% clean energy: Another sign that zero-carbon energy is going viral.” Roberts writes in response to the exciting news the energy world received on December 4th: Xcel Energy, one of the biggest utilities in the US, has committed to going completely carbon-free by 2050 (and 80 percent carbon-free by 2030). The company’s announcement entitled “Xcel Energy airms for zero carbon electricity by 2050 states in part: “Xcel Energy, a national leader in renewable energy, rolled out a clean energy vision today in Denver that will deliver 100 percent carbon-free electricity to customers by 2050. As part of this vision, the company also announced plans to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2030, from 2005 levels in the eight states it serves. The new goals are the most ambitious announced to date within the electric power industry. “This is an extraordinary time to work in the energy industry, as we’re providing customers more low-cost clean energy than we could have imagined a decade ago” said Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO, Xcel Energy. “We’re accelerating our carbon reduction goals because we’re encouraged by advances in technology, motivated by customers who are asking for it and committed to working with partners to make it happen.”
“Xcel Energy’s ground breaking climate commitment is an act of true leadership. It is anchored in proven clean energy solutions that are already delivering healthier air, low cost electricity, major economic investments and jobs to local communities,” said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund. “Ambitious efforts to slash carbon dioxide pollution are urgently needed. Xcel Energy’s vision will help speed the day when the United States eliminates all such pollution from its power sector, which is necessary to seize the environmental and economic opportunity of powering cars, trucks, homes and businesses with cost-effective, zero-emitting electricity.”
As a leader in the clean energy transition, Xcel Energy’s strong track record includes reducing carbon emissions 35 percent since 2005, as part of its previous goal to cut carbon 60 percent by 2030. The company believes that its 2030 goal can be achieved affordably with renewable energy and other technologies currently available. However, achieving the long-term vision of zero-carbon electricity requires technologies that are not cost effective or commercially available today. That is why Xcel Energy is committed to ongoing work to develop advanced technologies while putting the necessary policies in place to achieve this transition. [Note: they are being a bit cagey but see Xcel’s statement about Nuclear Energy from their website.]
November 29, 2018
Pennsylvania’s bipartisan Nuclear Energy Caucus issued a 42-page report which was nearly two years in the making outlining ways the state could aid its nuclear fleet, including by putting a price on carbon.
According to a report in witf, “PA nuclear plants, including TMI, could be saved if lawmakers act,” Pennsylvania could avoid a “devastating and permanent blow” to its economy and environment if it considers the ways other states have helped bail out their own failing nuclear plants, according to a long-awaited legislative analysis. The 42-page report published by Pennsylvania’s bipartisan Nuclear Energy Caucus was nearly two years in the making. It outlines ways the state could aid its nuclear fleet, including by putting a price on carbon. In recent years, other states — including New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Connecticut — have used various, controversial mechanisms to give billions of dollars to prop up their ailing nuclear plants by recognizing them as a source of carbon-free power. Caucus co-chair Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) said when he first began learning about the challenges facing the nuclear industry, he was more concerned about the economic impact of lost jobs at the nearby Three Mile Island plant. He now views climate change as the dominant reason to keep the plants online.
The nuclear caucus suggests a $15 per ton price on carbon as the best “long-term solution,” but says that would not rescue Pennsylvania plants facing imminent closure because it would take too long to implement. In the short term, the report suggests altering Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard – a 2004 law requiring utilities to purchase a certain percentage of electricity from clean sources. Those clean sources do not include nuclear power. The report also suggests following other states’ lead and creating what’s known as zero emission credits (ZECs), which effectively broaden the definition of clean power and recognize nuclear for its carbon-free emissions.
November 27, 2018
Washington Examiner, House lawmakers introduce first bipartisan carbon tax bill in a decade, by Josh Siegel, published on November 27, 2018
A small group of Democratic and Republican House lawmakers introduced Tuesday night the first bipartisan carbon tax legislation in nearly a decade as a way to combat climate change. Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida, the Democratic co-chair of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, unveiled the bill, “H.R. 7173 — 115th Congress: Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act of 2018,” along with fellow members of the group, Reps. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., Charlie Crist, D-Fla., and John Delaney, D, Md. “We are taking a monumental step forward in showing our colleagues and the country there is a bipartisan solution to climate change that addresses risks to our health, environment, and economy and puts a price on pollution to end our reliance on carbon,” Deutch told reporters on a press call. It is the second major carbon tax bill introduced by a Republican this year, after Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, the GOP co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus, introduced national carbon pricing legislation in September (without Democratic help).
November 16, 2018
UtilityDive, Connecticut moves to keep Dominion’s Millstone nuclear plant afloat, by Robert Walton, published on November 20, 2018
A draft decision issued last week by the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) could clear the way for Dominion Energy’s Millstone nuclear plant to remain open, by allowing the facility to compete for power contracts in the state’s carbon-free procurement process. PURA’s determination that Millstone is “an existing resource at risk of retirement” would mean the plant’s bids into the state power auction could compete as new, carbon-free resources like wind and solar. That would credit the facility for its emissions-free attributes as well as the price of its energy, which company officials say is necessary in order to continue operating. This would be the first time Connecticut allowed a nuclear plant to bid into the carbon-free auction, and is a contested topic in the region, because of concerns about spent fuel. But many don’t want to see existing nuclear plants retire due to concerns about how the energy will be replaced, and whether it could come from dirtier energy sources. Other states have tackled the issue of uneconomic nuclear plants and, though the methods vary, solutions are becoming entrenched. Illinois created a Zero Emission Credit (ZEC) for nuclear plants, and in September, a federal appeals court upheld the nuclear energy subsidies, ruling they do not interfere with the federal government’s jurisdiction over interstate power markets. New York has a ZEC program that has also survived a court challenge. “This is Connecticut doing its own thing,” said Hennessy. “Its not a ZEC program, but the state is basically acknowledging the value of nuclear.”
September 25, 2018
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1320, the Nuclear Utilization of Keynote Energy (NUKE) Act, introduced in March by Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)
Congressman Kinzinger spoke on the House floor in support of his legislation, and shortly after its passage, he released this statement: “Illinois is a national leader in producing clean, reliable electricity through nuclear power. On the hottest summer days or even during our coldest winters, these plants power our homes and businesses, all while creating good jobs and strong communities. My district is home to four nuclear power plants: Byron, Braidwood, Dresden, and LaSalle, and I’m honored to represent the thousands of dedicated men and women who work there.
“This is a crucial moment for nuclear power. Here at home, plants are facing economic pressures and early retirements, and around the world, nations like Russia and China are trying to increase their exports of nuclear technology and know-how. My bill, H.R. 1320, the NUKE Act, will provide stability to our nuclear plants by making common sense reforms at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Without compromising the NRC’s high safety standards, this legislation will ensure increased transparency, predictability, and accountability when it comes to the fees and charges that plants pay to be regulated by the NRC.
September 13, 2018
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the House equivalent of Senate Bill 97: The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act of 2017 (NEICA), sending the legislation to the president’s desk for signing.
The U.S. Congress—both the Senate and the House—has approved The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA), a bill introduced originally by Senator John Crapo in January, 2017, now has a chance to become law, if the president signs it. This bill is seen as landmark legislation which clearly shows that the House and Senate have recognized the importance of bringing advanced nuclear technology to bear against the challenges of energy security, climate change, and energy affordability, as part of a diverse and resilient energy system. The bill would support the growth of innovation in advanced nuclear with two main provisions: 1) a mechanism for NRC fee cost-sharing so the financial hurdles for advanced nuclear companies is not debilitating to their efforts to bring new technologies to market; and 2) with the design and construction by the Department of Energy of a domestic neutron test reactor, to provide a safe way to test new designs for reactors and fuels, as none currently exists in the U.S., requiring U.S. companies to test their designs abroad.
September 10, 2018
Governor Brown signed SB 100, calling for 100% Clean Energy by 2045, moving away from disproven claims that we can solve the energy crisis with 100% renewables. This bill recognizes the need for contributions from nuclear power, particularly advanced designs that address issues.
California has expanded on its landmark Global Warming Solution Act, AB32, with legislation that recognizes that we cannot meet all energy needs with renewables and calls for 100% “zero-carbon” energy by 2045. Although the amount of renewables required by that time has been raised from 50% to 60%, nevertheless the remainder of all energy used also needs to be clean without raising emissions elsewhere in the grid, and pretty much the only other available source is nuclear. This legislation specifically allows for nuclear to be a part of the future mix. The summary states: “This bill would state that it is the policy of the state that eligible renewable energy resources and zero-carbon resources supply 100% of retail sales of electricity to California end-use customers and 100% of electricity procured to serve all state agencies by December 31, 2045. The bill would require that the achievement of this policy for California not increase carbon emissions elsewhere in the western grid and that the achievement not allow resource shuffling.
September 6, 2018
A bipartisan group of nine US senators introduced the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA), S. 3422
NELA will “boost nuclear energy innovation and ensure advanced reactors can provide clean, safe, affordable and reliable power to meet national and global energy needs.” The legislation was introduced by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), James Risch (R-ID), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Chris Coons (D-DE).
September 3, 2018
MIT researchers released the report of a study called The future of nuclear energy in a carbon-constrained world, which analyses the reasons behind a slowdown in nuclear energy growth and outlines measures that could be taken to arrest or reverse that trend.
The study was led by MIT researchers in collaboration with Idaho National Laboratory and the University of Madison-Wisconsin (the eighth in a series exploring the role of technologies in meeting rapidly growing energy demand in a carbon-constrained world). The world is facing the challenge of drastically reducing emissions of greenhouse gases while simultaneously expanding energy access and economic opportunity to billions of people. The challenge of climate change will be more difficult and costly to solve unless nuclear energy is included in the energy mix, according to the Massachussetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative (MITEI) report. “Our analysis demonstrates that realising nuclear energy’s potential is essential to achieving a deeply decarbonised energy future in many regions of the world,” according to study co-chair, Jacopo Buongiorno, associate department head of the Nuclear Science and Engineering Department at MIT.
September 1, 2018
Launch of the Nuclear Pride Coalition and movement in Amsterdam, whose founding purpose is to save and expand nuclear energy in Europe.
The founding Nuclear Pride Coalition was established by: Ecomodernist Society (Finland), Ecomodernist Society (Netherlands), Environmental Progress (U.S.), Partei der Humanisten (Germany), Generation Atomic (U.S.), Mothers for Nuclear (Switzerland), Nuklearia (Germany), Saving Our Planet (France-UK-Norway-Turkey), Ecomodernist Society (Ökomoderne, Germany), The Thorium MSR Foundation (Netherlands), and Students for Nuclear (U.S.). The group is planning an historic, pro-nuclear power demonstration in Munich, Germany, on October 21, 2018 called the “Nuclear Pride Fest,” which will be held in Marienplatz, Munich’s central plaza, and it is expected to be attended by people from around the world.
In a first-ever decision, the NRC sided with the Tennessee Valley Authority request for a smaller Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ). TVA used four SMR designs—BWXT’s mPower, Holtec International’s SMR-160, NuScale Power’s SMR, and Westinghouse’s SMR—to provide the technical basis for a requested exemption to the 10-mile EPZ requirement currently in use for the U.S. operating fleet of large light water reactors. The NRC granted the application for TVA’s EPZ to extend only as to the actual site and not for a radius of 10 miles. This means that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff agreed with the Tennessee Valley Authority that scalable emergency planning zones (EPZs) for small modular reactors are feasible, an official recognition of the enhanced safety features of small and advanced reactors [that] could greatly simplify the licensing of these technologies and increase their cost competitiveness.
August 1, 2018
CO2 Concentration reached 405 parts per million., a new high, showing that, despite large increases in renewables, these technologies are not having significant impact on how much fossil fuels we are burning or how quickly CO2 emissions are accumulating, drawing attention to the need to do much more.
According to the State of the Climate in 2017 report from NOAA and the American Meteorological Society, global atmospheric carbon dioxide was 405.0 ± 0.1 ppm in 2017, a new record high. Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years. The last time the atmospheric CO2 amounts were this high was more than 3 million years ago, when temperature was 2°–3°C (3.6°–5.4°F) higher than during the pre-industrial era, and sea level was 15–25 meters (50–80 feet) higher than today. We are now very clear that carbon dioxide concentrations are rising mostly because of the fossil fuels that people are burning for energy. Fossil fuels like coal and oil contain carbon that plants pulled out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis over the span of many millions of years; by burning these fuels we are returning that carbon to the atmosphere in just a few hundred years. These fuels have provided 81% of our energy without a change in three decades, making it increasingly clear to global leaders that, to transition away from carbon-emitting to clean fuels more quickly, we need both nuclear and renewables.
Nuclear engineering students get business training by forming mock start-up teams to brainstorm and design an innovative company to address a problem in the nuclear industry. Over the two weeks, students will have access to mentors from all parts of the nuclear industry. They will also have opportunities to ask questions of the professors and experts who come in to lead sessions. At the program’s conclusion, students will pitch their design projects to a panel of judges and an audience (in person and online via live-stream) of company representatives, potential private investors, technical experts, relevant NGOs, and Department of Energy program managers.
July 23, 2018
Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla. became the first Republican to introduce national carbon pricing legislation in nearly a decade, challenged his party to confront climate change to save future generations from “crushing environmental debt.”
The Washington Examiner reported that Republican Carlos Curbelo, introduced a bill that puts a price on carbon emissions beginning in 2020. “While there are still some deniers out there, most Americans today understand that climate change caused by human activity is a reality that must be addressed,” Curbelo said at an event at the National Press Club. “I remind my colleagues who often decry our nation’s growing debt that saddling young Americans with a crushing environmental debt, meaning an unhealthy planet, is at least as immoral as leaving behind an unsustainable fiscal debt,” Curbelo added. “The time to act is now.” Curbelo’s bill would impose a tax beginning at $24 per ton of carbon dioxide in 2020, but which rises 2 percent annually above inflation. At the same time, it repeals the federal taxes on gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuels. The legislation would use the revenues from the carbon tax to fund improvements to America’s crumbling infrastructure, some of which would be directed for flood-mitigation projects and other initiatives to protect against climate change. Additionally, 10 percent of the carbon tax proceeds would go toward making energy more affordable for low-income people, and some of it would be used to help workers who are displaced by the tax.
June 26, 2018
The Finnish Green Party formally rejected anti-nuclear prejudice and caps on the use of nuclear energy.
The Finnish Green Party adopted a new platform on June 19, 2018 under the leadership of MP Olli-Poika Parviainen, which, for the first time in Europe, expressed the intent of the party that all green economic policies be “based on sustainability and reason” and be “open to all research and development on low-carbon technologies that respect the environment.” These explicitly included nuclear projects and pave the way for the addition of a third nuclear reactor at the Loviisa plant. Additionally, the party endorsed an additional project to build a new Russian reactor (AES 2006) of 1200 megawatts. This platform was adopted after the party recognized that the majority of the party did not hold a dogmatic position against nuclear, only a small minority of voters voted against nuclear energy, according to Green Party Chairman, Touko Aalto. According to Aalto, the majority agreed that the ecologically-minded must work with the market economy to promote their objectives and the “wellbeing of humanity” is now considered to be of the highest importance, over ideology.
June 25, 2018
BP’s Annual Statistical Review of Energy and Climate Change was released, showing no progress at all and even some backward steps, as carbon emissions increase.
The principal conclusion that can be reached from a review of the data presented for last year is that we are far from fulfilling the goals of reducing the threat of climate change according to the objectives of the Paris Agreement. In 2017, we have taken a step backwards with respect to the timid advances that appeared in the two preceding years: the use of fossil fuels continues to grow, the increase of the share of renewable resources is much lower than what is needed and the emissions are increasing rather than decreasing. For those looking objectively at these conclusions, the world’s nations clearly need to pull out the big guns in order to turn around this situation, and the only scalable low-carbon solution is with nuclear energy.
June 21, 2018
The grant money will fund innovative projects at national labs, universities and companies, with the funding to be spread between 89 projects in 29 states.
DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy selected 89 projects in 29 states for funding for nuclear energy research, facility access and technology and infrastructure development. The move will help maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear energy research in a time of increasing global competition, by helping top nuclear engineering faculty and students to develop innovative technologies. “Because nuclear energy is such a vital part of our nation’s energy portfolio, these investments are necessary to ensuring that future generations of Americans will continue to benefit from safe, clean, reliable and resilient nuclear energy,” DOE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Ed McGinnis said. “Our commitment to providing researchers with access to the fundamental infrastructure and capabilities needed to develop advanced nuclear technologies is critical.”
June 19, 2018
James Hansen, world’s most renown climate scientist, says the world is failing ‘miserably’ to address climate change and blames lies with denials and obstruction from fossil fuels and Trump as well as leaders like Gov. Brown and Pres. Obama.
The Guardian, in an article called Ex-Nasa scientist: 30 years on, world is failing ‘miserably’ to address climate change, by Oliver Milman and published on June 19, 2018, reported on the comments of 77 year-old, ex-NASA scientist and foremost climate scientist in the world, who issued the first warning to a mass audience of political leaders and the public about global warming when, in 1988, he told a US congressional hearing he could declare “with 99% confidence” that a recent sharp rise in temperatures was a result of human activity. Hansen lays blame more broadly than many climate activists realize: the inertia is not just the fault of the “nefarious lobbying of the fossil fuel industry.” Hansen also points to California’s progressive Governor Jerry Brown and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who are “both pretending to be solving the problem” while being unambitious and shunning low-carbon nuclear power, Hansen argues.
June 13, 2018
Morgan Stanley released its “Sustainable Signals” report, claiming that asset owners embrace sustainability.
The Executive Summary states: “Sustainable investing has gone from a niche investment idea to attracting enough capital to start having an impact on global challenges at a meaningful scale. Globally, more than $22.8 trillion are invested sustainably, representing more than $1 in every $4 under professional management. The intensity of recent growth has been driven by a fundamental shift in how investors and asset owners view environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors.” Furthermore, sustainable investing is increasingly being pursued for its potential to manage risk and drive returns. 84% of investment managers are pursuing or considering pursuing ESG integration and 78% seek to align with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.
Governor Phil Murphy signed several legislative initiatives to establish New Jersey’s leadership in the clean energy economy and directing the development of an updated Energy Master Plan (EMP) for the state to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050. With these measures, New Jersey establishes one of the most ambitious renewable energy standards in the country by requiring 21 percent of the energy sold in the state be from Class I renewable energy sources by 2020; 35 percent by 2025 and 50 percent by 2030. A cap on costs provides additional protections for consumers. Bill S-2313 further establishes a Zero Emissions Certificate (ZEC) program to maintain New Jersey’s nuclear energy supply, which contributes close to 40 percent of the State’s electric capacity and is by far New Jersey’s largest source of carbon free energy. Plants seeking to participate in the program would be required, among other things, to demonstrate that they make a significant contribution to New Jersey air quality and that they are at risk of closure within three years.
May 10, 2018
The Visual Capitalist, Jeff Desjardins, a highly-respected data analyst, released his graphic “The Safest Source of Energy Will Surprise You” showing that nuclear power is the safest of all energy sources.
In attempting to explain why people may react badly to his findings, Desjardins writes: “When it comes to conversations on energy, it’s hard to leave your feelings at the door. It’s arguable that energy is the single most important driver of human progress – it’s a multi-trillion dollar industry that powers our daily lives, technological advancements, and even the economic development of entire countries. At the same time, our choices around energy can have significant consequences. How we decide to generate energy can decimate the environment, fuel political conflicts, and even cause human deaths as unwelcome side effects. The outcomes from our choices around energy are so vivid, that we’ve developed strong and polarized associations with the subject at hand. Based on the data, this comparison provides a perspective that will be surprising to many viewers. Despite its perceived dangers, nuclear is actually the safest type of energy. That’s right – even when including seemingly catastrophic incidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima in the calculations, the math says that the amount of energy generated by nuclear is so vast that it more than outweighs these incidents over the long-term. The reality is that nuclear energy is much more comparable to renewables like solar or wind, in terms of safety. More importantly, it’s on the polar opposite of the spectrum from coal, which manages to kill 4,400 people daily in China alone. . . . Even though the conclusion on nuclear is pretty cut and dry, it’s still hard to absorb. After all, the relative safety of nuclear ends up being extremely counter-intuitive to our human brains, which are seemingly wired to put more weight on big, memorable events (i.e. Chernobyl) rather than slow, consistent deaths that occur over time with other energy sources. Today, nuclear provides about 11% of the world’s electricity from about 450 power reactors, generating about 2,500 TWh of electricity each year. And while there are still questions that remain – specifically revolving around how to store certain types of nuclear waste – the above data explains why the majority of scientists classify nuclear as a sustainable and safe energy source, along with other renewables.”
March 7, 2018
S. 97: The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act of 2017 (NEICA), introduced by Senator John Crapo in January, 2017, was passed by the Senate.
S. 97 enables civilian research and development of advanced nuclear energy technologies by private and public institutions, to expand both theoretical and practical knowledge of nuclear physics, chemistry and materials science, among other purposes. Senator Crapo has six bi-partisan co-sponsors, which include: Booker, Cory [D-NJ] (joined Jan 11, 2017); Durbin, Richard [D-IL] (joined Jan 11, 2017); Hatch, Orrin [R-UT] (joined Jan 11, 2017); Murkowski, Lisa [R-AK] (joined Jan 11, 2017); Risch, James [R-ID] (joined Jan 11, 2017); and Whitehouse, Sheldon [D-RI]. (joined Jan 11, 2017). The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate on March 7, 2018 and goes next to the House, where it is currently scheduled to be heard in September.
At the first summit, there were 48 advanced nuclear ventures or projects but as of January 2018, the advanced nuclear industry had climbed up to 75 projects in North America. And it’s not just growing in size, the industry is also maturing. At least five companies are already working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to prepare for licensing, and major new milestones have been reached with regulators in both the U.S. and Canada. As the advanced nuclear sector gets closer to licensing and constructing new power plants, the theme of the third annual Advanced Nuclear Summit focused on building the broader community that is critical to support innovative nuclear technologies.
Imperial College London and the Grantham Institute released briefing paper No. 24 on “The role of nuclear electricity in a low-carbon world.”
Major conclusions from this study include: “Nuclear will be essential for meeting the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, unless we can adapt to depend largely on variable wind and solar, or there is a breakthrough in the commercialisation of carbon capture and storage. The need may be greater if electricity becomes the preferred low-carbon solution for transport and heat; and “Small modular reactors (SMRs) currently being assessed by the UK government, could be largely factory built and less prone to construction delays. Smaller unit size should make them easier to finance and more flexible to deploy.
January 12, 2018
Environmental bellweather, Grist.com publishes “It’s time to go nuclear in the fight against climate change,” changing course from prior anti-nuclear articles published previously.
Author Eric Holthaus evaluated the situation in 2017 and, seeing that carbon emissions increased by 2%, despite the largest increase in renewables in world history, acknowledged that renewables alone would not be enough to stem climate change, which required not just slowing the growth of emissions or event getting them to level off but actually reducing them down to zero in rapid fashion. He wrote: “Something big has to change, and fast, in order to prevent us from going over the climate cliff. Increasingly, that something appears to be a shift in our attitudes toward nuclear energy.” According to Environmental Progress’ founder, Michael Shellenberger, Grist had published its “longest, most positive, and most scientifically accurate piece on nuclear energy to date. . . . Even more remarkable, Holthaus criticizes anti-nuclear environmentalists: ‘But resistance by mainstream environmental organizations has helped stymie that progress. . . . If we were smart,’ Holthaus adds, “‘we’d see nuclear power for what it is: A good bet to save the world.’ “
The Energy Innovation Reform Project released their report on What Will Advanced Nuclear Power Plants Cost? A Standardized Cost Analysis of Advanced Nuclear Technologies in Commercial Development.
The finding is that the average levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of $60/MWh from the study participants is 39% lower than the $99/MWh expected for PWR nuclear plants entering service in the early 2020s. If power plants featuring these technologies are able to produce electricity at the average LCOE price projected here (much less the low-end estimate), it would have a significant impact on electricity markets. In the United States, these technologies could be the definitive solution for the economic woes of nuclear energy in merchant markets. At these costs, nuclear would be effectively competitive with any other option for power generation. At the same time, this could enable a significant expansion of the nuclear footprint to the parts of the world that need clean energy the most—and can least afford to pay high price premiums for it. In other words, advanced nuclear has the potential to be disruptive technology in energy markets.
October 31, 2017
Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed Senate Bill 1501, An Act Concerning Zero Carbon Procurement, which was approved the week before by the Connecticut General Assembly. “I sign this legislation with the hope that Dominion will work in partnership with DEEP and PURA to provide the necessary information to complete an accurate assessment of Millstone,” Governor Malloy said. “The importance of this asset to both the state and the region cannot be overstated. If we are to realize the goals set out by this legislation, there is more work to be done.” If Connecticut’s nuclear power plant were to close, it would reduce Connecticut’s clean energy generation by 96%.
October 14, 2017
Release of “The New Fire,” a documentary about the young entrepreneurs and nuclear engineering Ph.D.s behind Advanced Nuclear start-ups.
From The New Fire, website: Nuclear power has been vilified in popular culture and among much of the environmental community. Yet the next-generation reactors currently in development may actually be key to avoiding global catastrophe. The young entrepreneurs heading this energy revolution realize they’re up against more than the climate clock – they need to convince all of us that the new nuclear is safe and achievable. The New Fire is an independent documentary that introduces audiences to young nuclear engineers who are developing next-generation reactors which they hope will provide clean and safe solutions to the world’s future energy needs. With unprecedented access to key people, places, and events, Emmy-winning director David Schumacher’s film focuses on how the generation facing the most severe impact of climate change is fighting back with ingenuity and hope. The New Fire tells a provocative and startlingly positive story about a planet in crisis and the young heroes who are trying to save it.
July 24, 2017
Hannah Ritchie of Our World in Data publishes the results of an analysis on relative safety of various energy sources entitled “It goes completely against what most believe, but out of all major energy sources, nuclear is the safest.”
Ms. Ritchie writes: “If we want to produce energy with the lowest negative health impacts, which source of energy should we choose? Here we limit our comparison to the dominant energy sources—brown coal, coal, oil, gas, biomass and nuclear energy; in 2014 these sources accounted for about 96% of global energy production. While the negative health impacts of modern renewable energy technologies are so far thought to be small, they have been less fully explored. There are two key timeframes to consider when attempting to quantify potential fatalities from energy production. The first is the short or generational timespan, which covers deaths related to accidents in the mining, processing or production phase of energy sources as well as the outdoor air pollution impacts from the production, transport and combustion of fuels. The second is the long-term or intergenerational impacts (and resultant deaths) from climate change. We can see that brown coal and coal rate the worst when it comes to energy-related fatalities. Coal-fired power plants are a key source of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, key precursors to ozone and particulate matter (PM) pollution, which can have an impact on human health, even at low concentrations. At the other end of the scale as the safest source of energy we have nuclear energy, resulting in 442 times fewer deaths relative to brown coal per unit of energy. Note that these figures also account for estimated cancer-related deaths as a result of radioactive exposure from nuclear energy production. . . . Nuclear energy [also] scores lowest on both short- and long-term mortality related to energy production. It’s estimated that up to 1.8 million air-pollution related deaths were avoided between 1971-2009 as a result of producing energy with nuclear power plants rather than available alternatives.”
Tomorrow Today, hosted at UC Berkeley from July 16-29, 2017, continued the business bootcamp-style training of nuclear engineering students and professionals in developing and executing ideas for nuclear energy that work in the real world, preparing them with the business and marketing tools to make a real impact as innovators and entrepreneurs. 25 students from around the world will learn from experts inside and outside the classroom for two weeks while executing team design projects. They will have the guidance and advice of mentors and experts and learn how to prepare and make a business pitch for their business plan. The bootcamp will culminate in a session open to the public where each group will pitch their project to a panel of expert judges.
March 2, 2017
Senator John Barrasso [R-Wy] introduced S. 512: The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA), which will require the NRC to be able to review and approve advanced nuclear applications.
A bi-partisan group of senators has been working hard to modernize nuclear energy. S. 512, introduced by Senator Barrasso, was cosponsored by Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI]; Jim Inhofe [R-OK]; Cory Booker [D-NJ]; Mike Crapo [R-ID]; Deb Fischer [R-NE]; Shelley Moore Capito [R-WV]; Joe Manchin III [D-WV]; Robert P. Casey, Jr. [D-PA]; Tammy Duckworth [D-IL]; Jeff Flake [R-AZ]; Thomas R. Carper [D-DE]; Mike Rounds [R-SD]; Chris A. Coons [D-DE]; John Cornyn [R-TX]; Orrin G. Hatch [R-UT]; Gary C. Peters [D-MI]; John Kennedy [R-LA]; and James E. Risch [R-ID]. This bill is one of various pieces of legislation designed to promote advanced nuclear innovation and development. One bill would open the doors of our national laboratories to entrepreneurs and their innovative new companies to develop public-private partnerships with the potential to bring new ideas to market. This bill, looks to build a sensible regulatory framework to allow diverse advanced reactor concepts to go from the drawing board to reality. All of these bills have been moving through Congress and are garnering broad bipartisan support. The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act passed the Senate as part of a bipartisan energy bill, on an 87-4 vote. The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on a 17-3 vote.
The summit, once again hosted by Third Way, highlighted the enormous benefits that advanced nuclear commercialization can offer the U.S. The advanced nuclear industry can deliver substantial economic growth and competitiveness, job creation, and global leadership for America on issues like security and climate change. The AFL-CIO’s Liz Shuler proclaimed that promoting nuclear—both existing and advanced nuclear development—is good for the labor movement and good for the country. Senator Chris Coons addressed the event and spoke about finding common ground on nuclear energy in this pivotal moment with Senators Lisa Murkowski and Tim Scott.
In an historic milestone toward the deployment of the next generation of advanced nuclear technology, Oregon-based NuScale Power LLC today delivered to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission a design certification application (DCA) for its small modular reactor (SMR) commercial power plant design. The 12,000-page application is the first ever to be submitted to the NRC for a small reactor. It moves NuScale a step closer to commercialization and construction of the nation’s first SMR plant. The DCA is a complex document, supported by 18 technical reports and 15 topical reports. The NRC is expected to complete its certification process within 40 months. Once issued, a design certification is valid for 15 years in support of a combined license application (COLA) to construct and operate a power plant. NuScale plans to build its first commercial power plant at DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The plant will be owned by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems’ (UAMPS) Carbon Free Power Project and operated by Washington state-based utility, Energy Northwest. It is expected to begin commercial operations by 2026.
January 11, 2017
Senator John Crapo [R-ID] introduced S. 97: The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA) of 2017 which will enable civilian research and development of advanced nuclear energy.
S. 97 enables civilian research and development of advanced nuclear energy technologies by private and public institutions, to expand both theoretical and practical knowledge of nuclear physics, chemistry and materials science, among other purposes. Senator Crapo has six bi-partisan co-sponsors, which include: Booker, Cory [D-NJ] (joined Jan 11, 2017); Durbin, Richard [D-IL] (joined Jan 11, 2017); Hatch, Orrin [R-UT] (joined Jan 11, 2017); Murkowski, Lisa [R-AK] (joined Jan 11, 2017); Risch, James [R-ID] (joined Jan 11, 2017); and Whitehouse, Sheldon [D-RI]. (joined Jan 11, 2017). This bill amends the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to emphasize: (1) providing research infrastructure to promote scientific progress and enable users from academia, the National Laboratories, and the private sector to make scientific discoveries relevant for nuclear, chemical, and materials science engineering; and (2) enabling the private sector to partner with the National Laboratories to demonstrate novel reactor concepts for the purpose of resolving technical uncertainty associated with the aforementioned objectives, and development of cost-effective technologies for increasing the safety and security of nuclear facilities. The bill requires that by December 31, 2017, DOE shall determine the mission need for a versatile reactor-based fast neutron source, which shall operate as a national user facility to ensure that the user facility will provide at a minimum: (1) fast neutron spectrum irradiation capability, and (2) capacity for upgrades to accommodate new or expanded research needs. The bill was passed by the Senate on March 7, 2018 and goes next to the House, where it is scheduled to be heard in September.
December 1, 2016
Illinois passed the Future Energy Jobs Act which supports continued operation of at-risk nuclear facilities.
The Illinois legislature established a Zero Emission Standard through a consolidation of various bills forming 10 amendments passed by ILGA on December 1, 2016, which because Public Act 99-0906, the Future Energy Jobs Act, requiring that energy procurement be subject to “low-carbon portfolio standards,” rather than renewable portfolio standards. It provided a mechanism of Zero Emission Credits to support the continued operation of at-risk nuclear facilities, while also expanding and consolidating the state renewable portfolio standard into the central procurement model. The goal was to expand clean energy procurement but also ensure a reasonable return for certain baseload resources, with procurement of ZECs set at 16% of the total retail demand across the Sate. The value of the ZEC was set through a statutory formula, based upon the social cost of carbon. The final Zero Emission Standard Plan and energy bids meeting the criteria were approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission in September 2017 (ICC Docket No. 17-0333).
A protest was held in Chicago to demand that Illinois protect its nuclear power plants. These are needed to protect energy reliability while not contributing to the carbon emissions causing climate change. Ironically, the organizers and marchers needed to direct their protests towards a major environmental organization, Environmental Law & Policy Center, and a renewable energy developer, Invenergy, which were standing in the way of legislation that would help Illinois power plants withstand price declines that were the result of cheap natural gas. According to the protestors, Environmental Law & Policy Center has taken money from groups that compete with nuclear, namely fossil fuel and renewable interests, including Invenergy, a developer of solar, wind and natural gas power that donated $10,000 to ELPC.
August 1, 2016
New York State passes landmark legislation to adopt a new “Clean Energy Standard” which supports both renewables and nuclear power and provides Zero Emission Credits to nuclear power plants at risk of closing due to low gas prices.
On August 1, 2016 the NYPSC issued an order adopting a Clean Energy Standard (“CES”) encompassing various sustainable energy policies, including a ZEC program—which was the first such policy explicitly designed to assist financially “at-risk” nuclear energy generators. Through the NYPSC’s ZEC program, a nuclear generator is eligible to sell ZECs for extra revenue based on certain “public necessity” factors, including: that the generator has a history of contributing to the clean energy resource mix consumed by in-state retail consumers, and that existing energy, capacity, and ancillary services revenues are “insufficient to provide adequate compensation to preserve the zero-emission environmental values or attributes historically provided by the facility.” Under the program, eligible generators—currently the Fitzpatrick, Ginna, and Nine Mile Point nuclear facilities—enter into 12-year contracts with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (“NYSERDA”) and receive one ZEC for each MWh of production. New York load-serving entities must either contract with NYSERDA or with the nuclear generators directly to ultimately purchase the number of ZECs proportionate with their load share in the state.
The Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp was designed to train the next generation of students and professionals in developing and executing ideas for nuclear energy that work in the world–providing them the tools to make a real impact as innovators and entrepreneurs. 25 nuclear engineering students from around the world get to learn from business, marketing, and other experts inside and outside the classroom for two weeks while executing team design projects that address needs in the market place. Participants take on roles in their project organizations and role play the responsibilities of those jobs, as they pitch their projects to a panel of judges at the end of the camp. The bootcamp has continued to train students every summer since 2016.
From Forbes: “Now that many environmentalists and climate scientists have realized that nuclear energy is essential for addressing global warming, a coalition of environmental groups is sponsoring a multi-day March for Environmental Hope in California in support of nuclear power. Starting on June 24th in San Francisco, people will march from San Francisco to Sacramento to protest the potential closing of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant which, together with the recent closing of the San Onofre nuclear plant in southern California, would completely wipe out all progress in clean energy made by the state with wind and solar power.
The first-ever convening of members of the nascent advanced nuclear energy sector. Third Way, in partnership with the Idaho National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, hosted the first ever Advanced Nuclear Summit and Showcase in Washington, DC. The event brought together policymakers, innovators from 48 different groups and investors who are developing advanced nuclear technology. Several panels of experts participated in a series of panel discussions about the latest breakthroughs and speakers included opening remarks from Senator Lisa Murkowski, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, closing remarks from Rachel Pritzker, Senator Mike Crapo, Senator Cory Booker and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
December 3, 2015
James Hansen, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira and Tom Wigley issue a letter to world leaders and climate activists entitledNuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change.
Four esteemed climate scientists explain why, to solve the climate problem, policy must be based on facts and not prejudice. They explain why it is that, along with expanding renewables, we need to expand nuclear power, if we don’t want to risk missing crucial climate targets. They write: “We have become so concerned about humanity’s slow response to this challenge that we have decided we must clearly set out what we see as the only viable path forward. As scientists we do not take advocacy positions lightly, but we believe the magnitude of climate change now presents an unprecedented moral challenge that compels us to speak out. To avoid the worst effects of climate change, including continued sea level rise, the total loss of Arctic sea ice and devastating effects on human societies and natural ecosystems alike, rapid global decarbonisation is needed. The voluntary measures put on the table at Paris by over 100 nations are a welcome step, but unless there are strong measures to reduce emissions beyond 2030, global emissions would remain at a high level, practically guaranteeing that young people inherit a climate running out of their control. A new and intensified approach is clearly needed. . . . Nuclear power, particularly next-generation nuclear power with a closed fuel cycle (where spent fuel is reprocessed), is uniquely scalable, and environmentally advantageous. Over the past 50 years, nuclear power stations – by offsetting fossil fuel combustion – have avoided the emission of an estimated 60bn tonnes of carbon dioxide.
November 6, 2015
Launch of the Department of Energy’s newGateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program.
GAIN is a public-private partnership launched by Obama, dedicated to accelerating innovative nuclear energy terchnologies’ time to market. Given the magnitude of the need, combined with the sense of urgency and the enormous benefits, GAIN was launched to provide a more agile association between the government and private enterprise focused on bringing innovations in advanced nuclear to market. By 2030, the U.S. nuclear industry should be equipped to lead the world in development of innovative nuclear technologies to supply urgently needed abundant clean energy both domestically and globally. Thus GAIN will provide the nuclear energy industry with access to technical, regulatory and financial support necessary to move innovative nuclear energy technologies toward commercialization in an accelerated and cost-effective fashion.
A Forbes write up about the event reported that Kirsten Cutler, the Obama administration’s assistant director for nuclear energy and nonproliferation, said, “[This Nuclear Summit] provided valuable insights on why maintaining U.S. leadership in nuclear energy is important for supporting economic competitiveness and jobs creation, enhancing international nuclear safety, security standards and nonproliferation controls, and enabling the next generation of nuclear scientists, engineers, and technology developers to build the future of nuclear energy. Given that the global nuclear power industry is set to expend over $1.5 trillion in the next 20 years, it is certainly important that the United States maintains itself as a leader in this field. We have the largest, safest and the most effective nuclear program in the world.”
Illinois House Resolution 1146, adopted to protect the state’s nuclear power plants from premature closure.
The Illinois Power Agency Act (IPA, 20 ILC 3855) was created by the legislature in 2007 to address state energy procurement plans and implement the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard. Then, in 2014, the legislature passed House Resolution 1146, which sought to study potential Zero Emission Standards that included “potential market-based solutions that will ensure that the premature closure of nuclear power plants does not occur and that the dire consequences to the economy, jobs and the environment are averted.” (For more developments, see Dec. 1, 2016)
November 10, 2013
The premier of Pandora’s Promise, a pro-nuclear film by a filmmaker, Robert Stone.
This 2013 pronuclear documentary featured a number of environmentalists, including Stewart Brand, Michael Shellenberger, Mark Lynas and Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Robert Stone, all individuals who were previously antinuclear but had learned enough about the true risks and benefits that they had changed their minds and had come to appreciate and support nuclear. The film, “Pandora’s Promise,” aired at Sundance Film Festival.
November 3, 2013
Four of the world’s leading climate scientists, including Dr. James Hansen, published an open letter urging the environmental groups NRDC, EDF, Sierra Club and others to reconsider their anti-nuclear stances.
From from leading scientists to the leaders of environmental organizations with a critical message: “To those influencing environmental policy but opposed to nuclear power: As climate and energy scientists concerned with global climate change, we are writing to urge you to advocate the development and deployment of safer nuclear energy systems. We appreciate your organization’s concern about global warming, and your advocacy of renewable energy. But continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change. We call on your organization to support the development and deployment of safer nuclear power systems as a practical means of addressing the climate change problem. Global demand for energy is growing rapidly and must continue to grow to provide the needs of developing economies. At the same time, the need to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions is becoming ever clearer. We can only increase energy supply while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions if new power plants turn away from using the atmosphere as a waste dump.”
Bill Gates explains in a TED Talk called “Innovating to Zero”, why he has chosen to invest in efforts to bring advanced nuclear technology to market.
Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, describes his vision for the world’s energy future, and why he hopes his backing a dramatically different type of nuclear reactor will produce an energy miracle. The ultimate goal? Zero carbon emissions globally by 2050. The backstory? When Gates learned about the potential of advanced nuclear technology, he founded a new company called TerraPower and funded it, not only with his own money, but he brought in a few of his closest billionaire friends, including Paul Allen, his Microsoft co-founder, and Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer.