Why America’s Old Nuclear Plants Could Be Dragging Down Clean Energy Development
Money spent nursing nukes may be better spent on wind, solar, and research into new technologies.
Eking out the life of old nuclear plants could cripple the adoption of renewable energy.
The nuclear industry is currently reeling in the wake of the meltdown of Toshiba’s reactor business. As we’ve previously reported, the Japanese technology conglomerate was building the only new reactors currently in construction within the U.S. So its failure to succeed in capitalizing on a new generation of smaller reactors looks set to put a huge damper on the construction of new plants in the coming years.
In reality, though, the industry has been nothing but sluggish for decades. Tightening regulations, soaring construction costs, and a nightmarish PR problem have all served to undermine many plans to build new nuclear facilities.
Trouble is, nuclear is the only low-carbon energy source that can provide reliable baseload power, because renewables like wind and solar vary with the time of day and weather conditions. With no new nuclear plants scheduled to come online, pressure to curb carbon dioxide emissions has led some states to keep old reactors running into their old age.
As Bloomberg notes, New York and Illinois are investing billions of dollars to keep old facilities in action, and Connecticut, New Jersey, and Ohio are among states contemplating the same idea. It’s an expensive process, though it does mean that new natural gas plants aren’t required to fill the gaps left by wind and solar.