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The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has issued a new report that examines the ramifications of the economic decline, in the United States, of the nuclear power industry.The UCS has never been a nuclear power cheerleader and that position has not changed. gas in back and stomach This new report focuses on the the severe problems that much of the domestic nuclear power industry faces, and how those problems could impact efforts to reduce carbon emissions across the U.S. in the years to come. I have attached the report, including an executive summary, and a spreadsheet showing an estimation of the economic health of every nuclear plant in the United States. What are the key takeaways, from my perspective?

While nuclear power provided 53 percent of America’s low-carbon electricity in 2017, renewable energy is the fastest-growing source, increasing from 30 percent of the total in 2007 to 47 percent in 2017. Most of this growth in low-carbon electricity has come from wind and solar power. Although natural gas was the nation’s leading source of new electric-generating capacity over the past five years, wind and solar combined for a total of 56 percent of all new capacity (AWEA 2018). Electricity savings from state and utility energy-efficiency programs have also grown over the past decade, reducing total US electricity use by an estimated 6 percent in 2016 (Weston et al. 2017).

2. With the steep decline in the price of natural gas the economics have taken a turn for the worse for the nuclear power industry . There are other issues impacting this dynamic, including the relative state of the individual plants, and the capital required to bring some of the nation’s nuclear plants back to profitability, or up to the safety standards required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. electricity prices over time From the report, answering the question on why the economics of nuclear power have changed so much.

The declining price of wholesale power, due primarily to declining natural gas prices, has been the main driver of early nuclear retirements over the past decade (EIA 2018a; Jenkins 2018; Haratyk 2017; Shea and Hartman 2017). Other factors have played a more modest role, including flat or declining demand for electricity, the rapid deployment and falling costs of renewable energy, increased operating costs and costly repairs for some nuclear plants, and plant ownership and market structure.

While the UCS advocates nuclear power as an important part of the low carbon energy portfolio in the United States the report does not advocate for unconditional support economically, and recognizes that for some nuclear stations the economic and safety lifts (to remain open) may be too much. electricity sources uk This report categorically rejected the attempt by the Trump Administration to assist nuclear and coal generation by claims that losses in those two areas would negatively impact grid “reliability and resilience.” Lets look at some of the key findings from the report:

The UCS gives, in the report, a look at their own estimates of every plant in the United States in terms of economic viability. There are some plants already scheduled to close, and the report lists those plants. We also get a look at the different approaches taken by some states that have offered economic incentives to nuclear plants, as well as how some have dealt with closings without the use of economic incentives. (California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois are looked at)

(42 percent of total US nuclear capacity) with higher nuclear costs and 28.7 GW with lower natural gas prices over the next five years. In contrast, the amount of unprofitable capacity could decline to 10.6 GW with lower nuclear costs, 7 GW with higher natural gas prices, and 1.4 GW with a national CO2 price of $25 per ton in 2020, rising 5 percent per year.

A robust, economy-wide cap or price on carbon would be an effective, market-based approach to addressing a key market failure and leveling the playing field for all low-carbon technologies. electricity resistance questions It would send a clear market signal rewarding cuts in heat-trapping CO2 emissions and driving innovation and private investments in low-carbon technologies including existing nuclear generation.

A well-designed LCES could help prevent the early closure of existing nuclear plants while allowing renewable energy technologies, new nuclear plants, and fossil fuel plants with carbon capture and storage to compete for a growing share of low-carbon generation. Existing nuclear plants should be included in a separate tier with other existing low-carbon energy sources, such as large hydropower facilities, to avoid market issues due to limited competition between a relatively small number of large plants and owners. The other tier would be reserved for developing new low-carbon generation to encourage competition across many technologies, projects, and companies to deliver the most low-carbon electricity at the lowest cost, with an ongoing incentive to drive down costs.

As with most discussions on the best way forward on energy I am quite sure that there will be vigorous debate on the relative merits of the approach advocated for in this report. I can say that the analysis presented is robust, and you do not have to be steeped in energy knowledge to understand the points made, and policies advocated. The approach is measured and is emphatically not an advocacy for unfettered financial support of the nuclear industry. electricity for beginners I was fortunate to look at the report after the UCS put out a blog post “The Seven Things People Got Wrong With our recent ‘Nuclear Power Dilemma’ Report’”

The UCS recognized the vital importance that these plants play in the local economy, through the creation of jobs, the payment of property taxes, and the multiplier impact of day to day operations. Sudden closures without mitigation can create severe economic hardships for the host community, as well as economic dislocation of people dependent on the plant for jobs, and business that benefits from geographic proximity to nuclear stations.

Nuclear power plants are an important source of local jobs and tax revenues. Plant owners can work with states and communities to develop worker and community transition plans to attract new businesses and help replace lost jobs and taxes. For example, recent California legislation includes a $350 million employee-retention fund and an $85 million community impact–mitigation fund for the closure of Diablo Canyon in 2025 (Maloney 2018a; Miller 2018). The bill includes a commitment that the closure will not increase heat-trapping emissions. gas zauberberg 1 Plant employees could transition to work decommissioning retired plants, which can take up to 60 years (Bryk and Morris 2017). Plant owners can also transfer employees to other facilities or positions within their companies, as Entergy is considering doing for up to 180 employees at its Palisades nuclear plant in Michigan (Parker 2016). Illinois provides $30 million for broader job- training programs. New York has a clean energy job- training program (NYSERDA 2018a) and a statute to provide temporary, transitional, tax-base relief to communities that face the retirement of power plants (NYSERDA 2018b). States can also provide incentives for new economic development.