Nuclear Power Policy

Nuclear Power Policy

1. Prudence dictates that we develop as many options to reduce global warming emissions as possible, and begin by deploying those that achieve the largest reductions most quickly and with the lowest costs and risk. Nuclear power today does not meet these criteria.

2. Nuclear power is not the silver bullet for “solving” the global warming problem. Many other technologies will be needed to address global warming even if a major expansion of nuclear power were to occur.

3. A major expansion of nuclear power in the United States is not feasible in the near term. Even under an ambitious deployment scenario, new plants could not make a substantial contribution to reducing U.S. global warming emissions for at least two decades.

4. Until long-standing problems regarding the security of nuclear plants—from accidents and acts of terrorism—are fixed, the potential of nuclear power to play a significant role in addressing global warming will be held hostage to the industry’s worst performers.

5. An expansion of nuclear power under effective regulations and an appropriate level of oversight should be considered as a longer-term option if other climate-neutral means for producing electricity prove inadequate. Nuclear energy research and development should, therefore, continue, with a focus on enhancing safety, security, and waste disposal.

If the current situation continues, more nuclear power plants will likely close and be replaced primarily by natural gas, causing emissions to rise. Policymakers should consider the following recommendations as they think about how to respond:

  • We need carbon pricing. A robust, economy-wide cap or price on carbon emissions would help provide a level playing field for all low-carbon technologies.
  • We need a low-carbon electricity standard. A well-designed LCES could prevent the early closure of nuclear power plants while supporting the growth of other low carbon technologies.
  • Financial support for nuclear plants should be conditioned on consumer protection, safety requirements, and investments in renewables and energy efficiency. Policymakers considering temporary financial support to avoid the early closure of nuclear plants should couple that support with strong clean energy policies, efforts to limit rate increases to consumers, and rigorous safety, security, and performance requirements.

Approved by the board November 20, 2007

(Adopted from Union of Concerned Scientists, “Nuclear Power and Global Warming”)

Nuclear doesn’t help with climate or work well with renewables

A study by researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK, published in Nature Energy (Oct 2020), considers three hypotheses:

  1. Emissions decline the more a country adopts nuclear
  2. Emissions decline the more a country adopts renewables
  3. Nuclear and renewables are ‘mutually exclusive’ options that tend to crowd each other out at an energy system level

The hypotheses were tested against 25 years’ worth of electricity-production and emissions data from 123 countries.