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« First new U.S. nuclear reactor in almost two decades set to begin operating | Main | THE MATTERHORN INTERVIEW – June 2016:“Oil Market: Peak Demand, Gold Market: Peak Supply” »

Nuclear Energy Is Valuable

We're subsidizing expensive solar and wind power, but nuclear energy is the key to going carbon-free.

By Mark Perry | Contributor

June 8, 2016, at 8:00 a.m.

If there is one thing that seems certain about meeting the nation's clean air goals, it is that shutting down nuclear power plants is nonsensical. Nuclear power doesn't pollute the air, and it is our largest source of carbon-free energy. The climate benefits of nuclear power are unmistakable. Yet since 2013, 10 nuclear plants have either been shut down or are in the process of being retired prematurely – and the Department of Energy says that as many as 20 other nuclear plants are at high risk of being closed.

As a result of plant closings, greenhouse gas emissions have gone up, since nuclear power is most often replaced by natural gas, which is a major source of emissions. But another factor is now fueling the problem. It's our habit of mandating the use of subsidized wind and solar power.

Twenty-nine states have renewable portfolio standards which call for energy sources like wind and solar to generate a certain percentage of a state's electricity. But nuclear power, though it accounts for nearly 60 percent of the nation's carbon-free energy, is excluded from the portfolio standards in every state except Ohio, which credits "advanced nuclear power." Consequently, at wholesale electricity auctions, electric grid operators must purchase a certain amount of solar and wind energy, even though, due to its intermittency, it is usually three or four times more expensive than nuclear-generated electricity.

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