At COP28 last year, nuclear power — the form of energy that, if given the chance, could be the most effective path to decarbonization — finally garnered some proper attention. More than 20 countries, including the United States, pledged to triple their nuclear capacity in their efforts to meet climate goals.
Maybe leaders are finally realizing renewables fall short or that nuclear has many advantages, or both. Regardless, it is refreshing to see over two dozen nations recognizing nuclear’s potential.
Indeed, some countries have flip-flopped on their commitments to nuclear power. France meets about 70 percent of its energy needs with nuclear power, far outperforming any other country. France’s earlier plans to reduce its reliance on nuclear power were postponed, then scrapped. In 2022, France said it would build six new nuclear reactors and was contemplating eight more on top of that. Comments in early 2024 clearly signaled those additional eight new plants would also be required.
Sweden surprised many with its announcement this past summer to reinvest in nuclear power, effectively reversing its decision decades ago to phase it out. Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson said, “We need more electricity production . . . and we need a stable energy system.” Sweden is likely trying to get ahead of the energy difficulties that some European countries (such as Britain and Germany) are experiencing.
Nuclear has been sworn off by so many, stigmatized as being a dangerous and even deadly source of energy. Yet it has proven to be the most reliable and clean, and certainly more affordable than renewables. System costs, for example, are much lower for nuclear since the cost for intermittent renewables to meet baseload demand is significant. Some estimate that the cost per kilowatt of nuclear is about half that of wind and a third of solar.
The U.S. nuclear industry has dramatically improved its safety and security; U.S. plants are among the safest and most secure industrial facilities in the country. The one nuclear-plant accident at Three Mile Island in 1979, albeit only a partial meltdown, caused no deaths and has zero links to any health concerns. By contrast, the pollution caused by coal-fired power is a well-known health concern, and those who mine coal are at an increased risk of various lung diseases, most notably what is sometimes called “black lung.”
Read the full National Review article here.
Kristen Walker is a policy analyst for the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit education and research organization. For more information about the Institute, visit www.theamericanconsumer.org or follow us on Twitter @ConsumerPal