What’s that #energytwitter? You want a respectful, empathetic debate on nuclear power for Earth Day? Check out today’s episode of @NYTOpinion ‘The Argument’ with @janecoaston where we talk about how nuclear power can help us reach our climate goals: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-argument/id1438024613#episodeGuid=9774eb91-2a89-4f8c-9ced-a2936a999ee1
Our 94 nuclear plants currently contribute 55% of the nation’s clean energy and will certainly help us meet our #ParisAgreement commitments. But not only can nuclear help contribute to 100% clean electricity, it can also help us tackle hard-to-abate sectors of the economy!
For example, in addition to increasing grid reliability and penetration of renewables, Nuclear can help us produce the massive amounts of green hydrogen we’re going to need to help decarbonize the maritime sector, industrial processes, and even aviation. https://twitter.com/mliebreich/status/1314519142100348928?s=21
But what about cost, you ask? Cost arguments were the same arguments used against solar in the 2010s. We can tackle nuclear costs in the same way: Build the same thing over and over. @J_Lovering has a great paper exploring that point here: http://www.nae.edu/19579/19582/21020/239120/239267/Chasing-Cheap-Nuclear-Economic-TradeOffs-for-Small-Modular-Reactors
But isn’t nuclear too slow and these new designs aren’t demonstrated? China has already started testing its pebble bed reactor: https://world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Hot-functional-testing-of-HTR-PM-reactors-starts and Russia has a floating nuclear SMR in operation since 2019: https://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Russia-connects-floating-plant-to-grid. So the US is already a little behind.
In the U.S., we have a few designs targeted to come online 2023-2025 as well as the designs from the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program by 2027. https://www.energy.gov/ne/nuclear-reactor-technologies/advanced-reactor-demonstration-program
Is it really clean? Yes. In March, the EU JRC released a report examining the entire nuclear supply chain—from mining to waste disposal—and classified it as a sustainable technology for investment under the EU Green Deal along with wind, hydro, and solar: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/business_economy_euro/banking_and_finance/documents/210329-jrc-report-nuclear-energy-assessment_en.pdf
As we touched on in the episode, it’s especially important to talk about how mining has changed in the US from underground mining to In Situ Recovery, which is not underground and does not create tailings or use pressure. In fact it looks like this: https://images.app.goo.gl/8u2M6L8brbxCpjJX9
But what about nuclear safety? We get into it on the episode and I think it’s a more productive conversation there than on Twitter and shows how important it is to genuinely address (and not dismiss) folks’ concerns: https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/GIPaCYEMGyIE1pmkhGIuxG
But what about jobs? Nuclear has good-paying union jobs that pay on average about 20% more than other energy sector jobs, the majority of which only require a HS or 2-year degree. My grandfather and two of my great-grandfathers worked at Oak Ridge with only a HS education!
Finally, I really encourage everyone to check out the policy agenda of @GoodEnergyColl which is committed to addressing legacy issues and to engage with local communities to create an energy system that meets their needs. https://www.goodenergycollective.org/policy/why-we-need-a-progressive-nuclear-agenda