New Projects, Nuclear, O&M, Reactors, Renewables, Waste Management & Decommissioning

Senator: U.S. must avoid losing all nuclear power generation

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) announced a series of year-long hearings in which the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development will look into the future of nuclear power in the nation.

Alexander said the subcommittee will begin expanded oversight with budget hearings in February and March, then turn to a series of hearings in April about the future of nuclear in the U.S. and what the country would be like without nuclear power.  There would be hearings on nuclear waste, energy research, nuclear vs. renewables, and energy reliability.

In his speech, Alexander laid out three incidents that show the impact of shutting down nuclear compared to building new nuclear. Alexander said that in Japan, where all 48 nuclear reactors shut down after the 2011 Fukushima accident, the cost of generating electricity has increased 56 percent since 2011.

“After Fukushima, Japan began shutting down its 48 nuclear reactors, which provided 30 percent of the country’s electricity,” Alexander said. “Things have changed, but not for the better.”

In Germany, which began phasing out its 17 reactors in favor of more wind and solar, the cost of the energy switch is estimated at $1.2 trillion, with electricity prices increasing 60 percent in five years. In addition, in order to support a large manufacturing base, Germany has had to import nuclear power from France, natural gas from Russia, and began building coal-fired power plants.

“During my visit (to Germany), when I asked an economic minister what he would say to a manufacturer concerned about energy costs in Germany, he said ‘I would suggest he go somewhere else,’” Alexander said.

The United Arab Emirates, conversely, would have completed four reactors, generating 25 percent of its annual electricity from nuclear by 2020.

Alexander also listed what the U.S. would have to do in order to not follow the same path as Japan and Germany, including build more reactors, figure out the nuclear waste storage issue, double energy research and encourage more energy diversity.

To read the full speech, click here.

Subscribe to Nuclear Power International magazine