This emissions-free power source should be revitalized through careful policy initiatives
NEW YORK, NY – Disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima dominate the popular imagination about nuclear power, but experts agree that the technological and safety obstacles that once affected the nuclear sector have largely been overcome. Yet this emissions-free energy source—which dramatically surpasses the output and reliability of other renewables like solar and wind—is consistently ignored in the national energy conversation. In a new Manhattan Institute report, adjunct fellow Jonathan Lesser explains why nuclear power has been overlooked, why it’s worth revisiting, and how U.S. policymakers could support its broad implementation.
Some of the past obstacles that have hurt nuclear power’s reputation and competitive advantage include decades of construction cost overruns and delays due to poor designs, lack of manufacturing expertise, shifting regulations, and political fights over spent-fuel disposal practices. The sector has also contended with subsidies for renewable energy sources that distort nuclear power’s ability to compete and the recent market success of natural gas.
Lesser details several policies could help nuclear regain its footing and actualize emissions-free mandates that are cropping up in policies like the Green New Deal. These include:
- Eliminating subsidies for renewable energy at the state and federal level;
- Linking subsidies for existing nuclear plants to wholesale market prices of electricity and incentives for improved operating efficiency;
- Providing government loan guarantees for the construction of new nuclear plants to investors who are willing to bear a portion of the financial risk and to developers who can prove the safety and reliability of their reactors;
- Developing vital partnerships between public and private laboratories to support testing and developing new nuclear technologies; and
- Solving the current political stalemate about spent-fuel practices.