Energy Embrace: Nuclear Power’s Inherent Reliability Key To Permanent Energy Security

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has focused minds on energy policy like nothing before. Europe’s self-defeating reliance on Russian oil and gas has exposed the so-called wind and solar ‘transition’ as a delusional farce. Adding chaotically intermittent wind and solar to a grid, while driving reliable and affordable coal-fired plants to the wall, inevitably requires oil and gas to run fast-start up open cycle gas turbines and/or diesel generators to compensate for total collapses in wind and solar output. With Vlad controlling the taps, the vulnerability of Europe’s power supply has been laid bare. While European governments are talking about banning imports of Russian oil, there is no such loose chatter about cutting off Russian gas supplies.

Europe’s months-long wind drought in the last half of 2021 demonstrated otherwise. And the peculiar disappearance of solar power, every day is readily explained by that phenomenon known as “sunset”. The mega-batteries touted as a solution are nothing but an expensive pipe dream. Which is why the Frenchamong others, are now talking about nuclear power as if it was their very first love.

Faced with the reality of actually trying to rely exclusively on wind and solar, even Germany’s Greens are talking about maintaining their ability to produce coal-fired and nuclear power for the foreseeable future. No surprises, there.

The self-inflicted disaster playing out in Europe has not been lost on Americans.

Ted Nordhaus and Valerie Shen make a timely and sensible plea for common sense to return to America’s energy equation.

America’s neglect of nuclear energy has weakened our global influence
The Hill
Ted Nordhaus and Valerie Shen
14 May 2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal war against the Ukrainian people has been a wake-up call for America’s European allies, exposing critical national security vulnerabilities as countries like Germany have hesitated to provide military support to Ukraine and impose strong economic sanctions on Russia due to the threat that Putin would cut off oil and gas exports.

But it has also laid bare the consequences of the United States’ long neglect of its domestic nuclear energy sector. Major federal investments in solar, wind and natural gas technologies in recent decades have allowed the U.S. to cut off Russian fossil fuel imports with little impact on our economy. But over that same period, we have largely ceded U.S. nuclear energy leadership to Russia and China.

The failure to invest in nuclear infrastructure along with a sclerotic nuclear regulatory system has led to premature plant closures, construction challenges for new reactors, increased regulatory burdens and operational costs, as well as an atrophied domestic supply chain for uranium and nuclear fuels. Russia now provides 20 percent of the enriched uranium that fuels our reactors and Russia’s TENEX is currently the world’s only commercial supplier of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) that many of the next generation of American reactors will run on. Russia also currently operates the only facility capable of testing the materials and components that can keep the United States on the cutting edge of commercial nuclear energy technology.

America’s short-sighted neglect of its nuclear energy sector has also weakened our nation’s power and global influence relative to Russia’s authoritarian regime. Russia is today the world’s largest exporter of nuclear technology, offering an attractive package of technology, finance, nuclear fuel and waste disposal to nations looking for clean, reliable nuclear energy as a hedge against overdependence on imported fossil fuels and intermittent renewable energy. Globally, Russia produces roughly 40 percent of total enriched uranium production for civilian nuclear energy.

Many of our democratic allies, from Eastern Europe to Africa to Latin America, would prefer to use U.S. nuclear technology and don’t want the strings that come attached to the Kremlin’s nuclear mercantilism and strong-armed energy diplomacy. U.S. nuclear engineering remains the best in the world. U.S. companies have developed a range of highly innovative nuclear technologies and business models that can meet enormous global demand for clean, reliable, energy, help our allies avoid dependence on Russian and Chinese energy technology and fuels, and grow U.S. technology and energy export markets.

Eastern European nations in particular have long sought to import U.S. nuclear technology over the objections of nations such as Germany and Belgium, warning European leaders that geopolitical and security risks of importing energy from Russia were far greater than the risks associated with nuclear energy. Those concerns have proven prophetic.

Lacking a U.S. option, the alternative in the coming decades is likely to be Chinese reactors. China has made huge investments in nuclear technology over the last decade and is poised to begin exporting those technologies soon. But that brings dependence on America’s strongest competitor and long-term national security challenge under Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s rule and thus represents an even greater threat to U.S. geopolitical and economic interests.

Reversing America’s decline as a nuclear energy leader will require urgent action from the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress. There is strong bipartisan support for reinvigorating American nuclear energy, as evidenced by the International Nuclear Energy Act of 2022 introduced by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho). Their bill would expand America’s ability to process and enrich uranium for both our own domestic needs and for our allies, as well as invest in new capabilities to produce the higher enriched uranium that will fuel the next generation of U.S. reactors. It would also expedite the export of critical nuclear technologies to our allies and help bolster their nuclear energy programs.

But there is still more work to do to assure that America and its allies break our dependence on Russian nuclear technology. First and foremost, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must reform and modernize its nuclear licensing procedures. Today’s advanced nuclear technologies are smaller, simpler, and safer than those of the past. Most have inherent and passive safety characteristics that allow them to operate safely without the multiple layers of redundant safety systems that are now required of operating conventional reactors.

There is no reason that it should take a decade and a billion dollars to license a new nuclear reactor, as has remained the case in recent years. Congress also needs to fully fund the Versatile Test Reactor, which is necessary to assure that the U.S. will be able to test and bring to market innovative new nuclear technologies.

Perhaps, in the years after the Cold War, U.S. national security interests could withstand importing our oil from the Middle East, our solar panels and critical minerals from China, and our uranium from Russia. But that era has come to an end. The time has come for President Biden and Congress to take the steps necessary to assure that America and its democratic allies have access to cutting edge, American made nuclear energy technology and ensure that safe, clean, and reliable energy is available globally to power open and democratic societies.
The Hill

A power source deserving of eternal neglect…

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Jacqueline Rovensky says:

    In Australia we have the fuel required to operate the modern small nuclear energy producing plants – yet we are hamstrung by a decision made many years ago when – yes – nuclear was a dirty word and considered by many to be a dangerous commodity. This was a result of actions during WW2 to bring the conflict to an end. Yes it had horrific results when utilised in that way but today we have technological advances in the use of this energy source, technology which could bring great security of economies and home finances due to the cost and security of energy being reduced to a point where manufacturing industries and home use of energy is cost effective once again.
    What advances could be made not only in current ‘1st’ world countries but across the globe.
    When energy is cheap and reliably accessible then there is opportunity to utilise it for peaceful means including ensuring those living in todays ‘3rd’ world countries are able to access energy to operate hospitals, pump water, provide for their children etc.
    The money behind so called ‘renewable’ energy of the sort being forced on us now is enormous. The constant need to refurbish, replace, fix these things is a money maker for those manufacturers. If it continues we will be living in a world of frequent replacement of these things, very nice if you own the companies because not only do you have to build the first ones and all the replacements you have to produce and install more than required to ensure, as you replace fields of turbines, panels and batteries there will still be energy being produced to keep things moving.
    Of course the goodie goodies of this world have not even thought of that – they are too intent on looking at their navels to see beyond the hype of the industrialists who benefit from this so called clean industry.
    Here it seems Australian politicians are beginning to see around the musky smirk – realising we need more security of our energy supply to ensure we can secure a safe free future for our people, lets hope their eyes are fully opening quickly so we can get on with building a secure future for our country – free from industrial pollution and cheaper energy for all.
    We used to be encouraged to use less electricity, yet we are now being told to use only electricity for all our needs – WHAT NEXT if we do not move quickly to build small nuclear energy plants – burning dung to keep us warm and cook our food. That’s if we still are able to have cows to produce it – after all they break to much wind so are a danger to the environment aren’t they!

  2. Anti-nuclear sentiment started with fossil-fuel companies. The Rockefeller Foundation paid for the “linear no threshold model.” ARCO paid for David Brower to leave Sierra Club to found Friends of the Earth — and then Sierra Club reversed course too. Bloomberg continues to pay Sierra Club. Anti-nuclear activist organizations are controlled by about a dozen billionaires.

    Combine that with “green” (and “woke”) which are transparently Comintern agitprop. Even though Comintern was officially “disbanded” in May, 1945, its operatives continued to operate, pumping out red-diaper babies and “action” on all fronts.

  3. Great post. It touches on all the important points. It’s very frustrating to know the United States has the technology and skill at hand to deploy nuclear power at scale but not the political will. When I tell people that the issue of nuclear waste is not really an issue from a technological stand point, because we can reuse that slightly spent fuel or put it in a repository, or it’s fine where it is, they are suprised. The nuclear industry has been negligent in telling the true story. We have to capture the public’s imagination aka Elon Musk. Is it possible the new small modular reactors could be much easier to build and mass manufacture than a reuseable rocket? Let’s interview passionate scientist workng on these projects, use high level animation to show how they work, and demonstrate the real advantages of density across the spectrum of the technology. If pronuclear groups, and the nuclear industry accepted a general public relations strategy like this, the negative news about renewables (undependables) becomes the stick, and our narrative about new reactors could become the carrot. The pressure then on Congress to follow our future leaning vision would be strong. And as far as the anti-nuclear crowd goes, tie their message to the generation II reactors they so dislike, and make them look like they’re talking about ancient news. They’d like nothing more than to have generation IV reactor technology be tied to the tired, old pressurized water reactor narrative. They even use invented acronyms to accomplish this (NWRs, non-water reactors). If we don’t accomplish this our kids’ lives may well be powered by Chinese technology – if they behave.

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