America’s nuclear energy industry is in decline. Low natural gas prices, financing hurdles, failure to find a permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste, reactions to the Fukushima accident in Japan, and other factors are hastening the day when existing U.S. reactors become uneconomic. The decline of the U.S. nuclear energy industry could be much more rapid than policy makers and stakeholders anticipate. China, India, Russia, and others plan on adding nuclear technology to their mix, furthering the spread of nuclear materials around the globe. U.S. companies must meet a significant share of this demand for nuclear technology, but U.S. firms are currently at a competitive disadvantage due to restrictive and otherwise unsupportive export policies. Without a strong commercial presence in new markets, America’s ability to influence nonproliferation policies and nuclear safety behaviors worldwide is bound to diminish. The United States cannot afford to become irrelevant in a new nuclear age.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has produced an 86 page policy paper on the present and future of civilian nuclear power in America. I don’t know of another study that so thoroughly captures the 2013 perspective on the real-world state of nuclear electricity in the US. While this is a US-centric report, the necessary global context is covered in sufficient depth that the reader has access to a concentrated short-course on global nuclear deployment up to Gen III+ reactors.
The purpose of this work is to discover why the US nuclear industry is in severe decline, and to arrive at policy prescriptions designed to restore the industry so that it can contribute to global carbon-free generation, and also influence proliferation and safety practices.
Students of energy policy know that, long-term, nuclear power is the only scalable, affordable alternative that can replace coal and gas to supply carbon-free dispatchable electricity. So why aren’t US utilities building new nuclear at rates at least as great as China? Major roadblocks include financing which is heavily influenced by regulatory uncertainty. On financing, CSIS assembled eleven experts who contributed to the Financial Structuring Subgroup.
So I recommend this study to readers who want realistic proposals to reverse US decline, and also those who are looking for an authoritative global overview of nuclear electricity through 2030.
You can buy the paper report from Amazon for $42.75 or you can download the free PDF from CSIS. Lean on your representative to study this report – explain why your vote depends upon their active support.