In its new report, The Nuclear Power Dilemma, the UCS now recognizes that nuclear power plays an important role in addressing the problem of man-made global warming by helping to keep U.S. carbon dioxide emissions considerably lower than they would otherwise be. The UCS notes that there has been a 28 percent reduction in U.S. power-sector emissions of carbon dioxide below 2005 levels. This is largely due to the switch from coal to cheap fracked natural gas, to increased energy efficiency, and to the deployment of some solar and wind generation capacity.
The UCS fears that this trend toward lower carbon dioxide emissions will be derailed because many of the currently operating nuclear power plants will close because they are being outcompeted by generation facilities fueled by cheap natural gas and subsidized renewable power generation. “More than one-third of existing plants, representing 22 percent of total U.S. nuclear capacity, are unprofitable or scheduled to close,” notes the report. “The possibility that the nation will replace existing nuclear plants with natural gas and coal rather than low-carbon sources raises serious concerns about our ability to achieve the deep cuts in carbon emissions needed to limit the worst impacts of climate change.” The UCS has evidently come to realize that closing down nuclear power plants will perversely “lock-in” fossil fuels and thus make it harder and more expensive to “save the climate.”
How about a crash program to develop safe and standardized thorium reactors?