Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

U.S. may face inevitable nuclear power exit

Date:
March 1, 2013
Source:
SAGE Publications
Summary:
In the third and final issue in a series focused on nuclear exits, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE, turns its attention to the United States and looks at whether the country's business-as-usual approach may yet lead to a nuclear phase-out for economic reasons.

In a 2012 report, the Obama administration announced that it was "jumpstarting" the nuclear industry. Because of the industry's long history of permitting problems, cost overruns, and construction delays, financial markets have been wary of backing new nuclear construction for decades. The supposed "nuclear renaissance" ballyhooed in the first decade of this century never materialized. And then came Fukushima, a disaster that pushed countries around the world to ask: Should nuclear power be part of the energy future? In the third and final issue in a series focused on nuclear exits, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE, turns its attention to the United States and looks at whether the country's business-as-usual approach may yet lead to a nuclear phase-out for economic reasons.

The Obama administration injected significant funding into two new nuclear reactor projects in Georgia in 2012. But this investment -- the first of its kind in three decades -- belies an overall dismal US nuclear power landscape. Where Japan and many European countries responded to the Fukushima disaster with public debate and significant policy shifts in the nuclear arena, the US has scarcely broached the subject. According to former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Commissioner Peter Bradford, current market forces challenge the economic viability of existing nuclear power plants, with new reactors representing an extremely unattractive investment prospect.

Allowing existing reactors to simply run out their licensed lifetimes in the current scenario, nuclear power may simply disappear, he writes. "Absent an extremely large injection of government funding or further life extensions, the reactors currently operating are going to end their licensed lifetimes between now and the late 2050s," Bradford concludes. "They will become part of an economics-driven US nuclear phase-out a couple of decades behind the government-led nuclear exit in Germany."

Also in this special issue, Sharon Squassoni, a non-proliferation expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, writes that a US nuclear phase out will have only minor international implications. Governmental attempts to buoy the US commercial nuclear industry for national security reasons run the risk of blurring the distinction between civilian and military nuclear programs, undermining public backing for both, she adds.

The Bulletin canvassed opinion on the economic and environmental implications of a US phase from leading institutions. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) experts Henry D. Jacoby and Sergey Paltsev modeled a number of scenarios, focusing particularly on the effects of greenhouse gas regulations. They also looked at the impacts of a nuclear phase out on greenhouse gas emissions, electricity prices, and the national economy. They conclude that a US exit from nuclear power would impose costs on all three.

Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute chairman and chief scientist, Amory Lovins, says that as the US electricity system ages, most of its power plants and transmission grid must be replaced by 2050. The cost will be roughly the same, whether the rebuilt system is fed by new nuclear power plants and "clean coal" facilities or centralized and distributed renewable energy plants: "The inevitable US nuclear phase-out, whatever its speed, is […] just part of a far broader and deeper evolution from the remarkable electricity system that has served the nation so well to an even better successor now being created," he writes.

The earlier issues in this Nuclear Exit series looked at neighbors France and Germany. Germany is a trailblazer for countries considering an exit from commercial nuclear power, embarking on an ambitious Energiewende, or energy turnaround, that includes a quick nuclear phase-out and an enthusiastic embrace of renewable energy. Just next door, France is taking a more cautious approach, and is currently carrying out an extensive, multi-stakeholder debate on the country's energy future. With three-quarters of France's electricity derived from nuclear power, a rapid or total exit seems unlikely.

The breadth and depth of the data and analysis presented by the authors in all three Nuclear Exit issues make clear that this question has no simple, one-size-fits-all answer. They make something else clear: The question deserves a serious, considered answer in every country with a commercial nuclear power industry.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists informs the public about threats to the survival and development of humanity from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences. The Bulletin was established in 1945 by scientists, engineers, and other experts who had created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project.

Links:


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by SAGE Publications. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. J. Mecklin. Introduction: US nuclear exit? Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2013; 69 (2): 9 DOI: 10.1177/0096340213478937
  2. P. A. Bradford. How to close the US nuclear industry: Do nothing. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2013; 69 (2): 12 DOI: 10.1177/0096340213477996
  3. S. Squassoni. The limited national security implications of civilian nuclear decline. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2013; 69 (2): 22 DOI: 10.1177/0096340213477997
  4. H. D. Jacoby, S. Paltsev. Nuclear exit, the US energy mix, and carbon dioxide emissions. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2013; 69 (2): 34 DOI: 10.1177/0096340213478553
  5. A. B. Lovins. The economics of a US civilian nuclear phase-out. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2013; 69 (2): 44 DOI: 10.1177/0096340213478000

Cite This Page:

SAGE Publications. "U.S. may face inevitable nuclear power exit." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130301122927.htm>.
SAGE Publications. (2013, March 1). U.S. may face inevitable nuclear power exit. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130301122927.htm
SAGE Publications. "U.S. may face inevitable nuclear power exit." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130301122927.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins