HomeScienceEnvironmentWhy does Biden continue to hold back the nuclear energy industry?

Why does Biden continue to hold back the nuclear energy industry?

Nuclear power is back in vogue, fueled by demand for a major source of zero-emission energy. The government should encourage the trend by ending policies that prevent the only reliable carbon-neutral energy source from thriving.

Old-school counter-culturalists like filmmaker Oliver Stone stand up for the peaceful power of the atom. Democratic politicians such as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer showing by their actions that aggressive carbon dioxide targets cannot be met without a robust nuclear energy network.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s swift efforts to preserve existing nuclear power plants have been half-hearted. The government continues to smother the US nuclear industry with outdated policies. Federal and state officials should instead seize this opportunity to end a regulatory model that has nearly starved the nuclear industry. Here are some concrete steps:

Recognize that renewables have failed. These sources produce too little energy and are too unreliable to meet our heat and electricity needs, even though taxpayers have spent billions of dollars on green pork. Wind and sun together generate only 12 percent of our needs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, and a third of what the agency considers “renewable” energy comes from none of these heavily subsidized sweethearts, but old-fashioned hydropower. While all energy sources receive subsidies, the generosity we hope for wind and sun dwarfs all others.

Stop all energy subsidies – including nuclear energy. Wind power companies received $36.8 billion in subsidies between 2010 and 2019, according to a recent study by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, while solar tycoons raked in more than $34 billion. This expenditure may be justified as a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But what explains the $25 billion (mostly in the form of tax breaks) that have plunged into the oil and natural gas industry, or the $13 billion that taxpayers have given to the coal industry? Like wind and solar power, nuclear power does not emit carbon dioxide, although the public revenue of up to $15 billion is relatively modest. But we need to abolish subsidies across the board and allow the most efficient and competitive forms of energy to emerge. Nuclear energy alone generates large amounts of energy cheaply, without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

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Abolish or fundamentally reform the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC has suppressed almost all new nuclear capabilities since its foundation in 1975. Vogtle factory in Georgia, are scheduled to go to work. The commission’s 32-step building permit process has effectively prevented new power generation since Gerald Ford’s administration. In 2005, the NRC ostensibly reformed and streamlined its commissioning process, but it still requires extensive sub-steps and approvals from other local, state, and federal regulatory agencies. It’s time to change the regulatory framework for what is already the safest form of energy on Earth.

Aim smaller and keep up with technology. Japanese energy companies take a three to four years on average to build a nuclear reactor. In France, construction was completed in five to eight years. In the United States, bringing a new plant to market never takes less than 10 years — and often takes more than 25 years. Construction on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Unit 2 began in 1973. The reactor only came online in 43 years. years, a delay almost entirely attributable to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (When there was no NRC, the average construction time was three to four years.) But the US would also benefit from investing in small modular reactors, or SMRs. And it’s time to renegotiate the framework of regulations and treaties that prevent us from reusing spent nuclear fuel. Nuclear technology has advanced since the time of President Ford. We have to move forward with it.

Keep existing installations up and running. The tight economy of energy policy has prompted nuclear operators to shut down existing plants. Governments can help by not allowing them in so quickly. In Michigan, where the heavily regulated electrical grid is expensive and old, the governor petition Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm for help reopening the Palisades factory. Other governors should take note and think twice when a nuclear operator asks for permission to shut down.

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Many proponents of nuclear power today are left-wing environmentalists. California’s Democratic legislature just voted in favor of a rescue package signed by Governor Gavin Newsom to prevent the 2025 retirement of the Diablo Canyon facility.

But one-time efforts are not enough. The current energy crisis requires a rethink of the entire US energy policy. We’ve been trying to kill the nuclear industry for decades. We will have to do more to revive it.

Tim Cavanaugh is editor-in-chief of the Mackinac Center for Public Policya research and education institute in Midland, Michigan.



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