Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Need for Multifaceted Energy Solutions:

Words of Wisdom from Marv Fertel

I was very pleased to see a recent opinion piece on US energy policy from Marvin Fertel, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute.  Too often, the proponents of each technology find themselves in the position where other energy technologies feel like competitors.  When this happens, there is a perceived need to "defend" one's own turf--to point out why it is better than the alternatives, or why the comparisons offered by others are not valid.

I don't deny that it can be important to correct erroneous information or unequal comparisons, when they are presented to the public.  But it casts the dialogue in a negative, one-sided manner, when the truth, as many of us recognize, is that we need a diverse portfolio of energy alternatives to meet our growing needs for energy, and our parallel environmental and security requirements.

Therefore, I was delighted to see that Marv Fertel, perhaps the most prominent spokesperson for the US nuclear industry as a whole, has published a very thoughtful essay on why we need a diversified mix of all energy technologies.  Since I cannot improve upon his words, I will provide some key quotes below, but I urge readers to click on the original essay:

"...the United States can and should pursue a bold and aggressive energy policy animated by a low-carbon, diversified portfolio of electricity generation, one that meets forecasted demand growth with technological innovation, reliability and environmental responsibility.  It must realize additional gains from efficiency, demand site management and conservation while recognizing that an ever-growing thirst for electricity will require innovative sources of producing or capturing energy."

"...we must continue to build additional nuclear energy to partner with other low-carbon sources like wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower." (emphasis added)

"...we should pursue an energy policy that balances our environmental goals and one that seeks to limit our exposure to imported sources."

Marv goes on to talk about both current nuclear power plant technology and the potential benefits of advanced reactor technologies and small reactor designs.  What I particularly like about his essay, is that he succinctly summarizes all the many demands on our energy sources--a sufficient and reliable energy supply, responsible environmental stewardship, limited exposure to external disruptions.  He asserts that the way to address that is with a broad portfolio of options--improvements in energy efficiency, grid reliability, demand side management, and conservation, and technological developments in fossil fuel extraction, nuclear reactor designs, renewable energy sources.  

He warns that achieving the needed mix won't be cheap or easy, but that it is important to the future of the United States.  And, I would add, to the world.



  1. Since nuke power is a tiny fraction the cost of wind and solar with today's gas or way in the future green storage, hydropower has no growth potential outside of the third world and is 3 times the cost of nukes, and geothermal is little more than a dream, why bother?

    Research yes build no. It's politics not engineering.

  2. I agree with Seth. The "all of the above" concept sounds really nice. It's all warm and fuzzy and non-confrontational, but it makes no sense at all. There is zero benefit to building wind and solar electricity generation. The resulting electricity is vastly more expensive than nuclear or gas generated power. Nuclear power is carbon free. Wind and solar are just expensive ways to burn gas.

    Wind and solar *sound* nice. But in the final analysis, there's not one single benefit they bring to the energy generation table that isn't better met with some other less expensive technology.