Friday, December 28, 2012

The Election and Nuclear Power:

A Cautiously Positive Outlook

Although many in the industry feel that nuclear power fares significantly differently under the Democrats and Republicans differ significantly--and indeed, from time to time, some of the rhetoric makes it sound like that should be the case--I have never been convinced that it was.  I was therefore gratified that some of the major analyses I saw shortly before and shortly after the election support my view.  Although it may seem now that the election was ancient history, I waited in hopes of seeing more analyses.

To date, I have seen two analyses that are of particular note.  Both come from the pages of American Nuclear Society (ANS) publications, although both express the views of individuals.  One article is by Linda C. Byus, a columnist on finance for Nuclear News, the flagship publication of the ANS.  (This publication is available to ANS members only on the ANS website.  See page 23.)  

In the November issue of the journal, which was published just prior to the election, she expressed her view that there was bipartisan support for nuclear generation.  Her main messages were that 1) nuclear power generation is not a political priority for any party in the US today, 2) although theree may be some philosophical differences in the measures each party is willing to support, the overall campaign positions of both Presidential candidates were quite similar, and 3) the key determinant for the future of nuclear power in the coming years will be the economic recovery, as it will serve as a catalyst for energy demand growth.    

More recently, Jim Hopf provided a post-election outlook for nuclear energy in the ANS Nuclear Cafe.  In it, he covers a variety of issues and points out how the views of the Obama Administration are favorable to nuclear power in some ways while not so favorable in other ways.  For example, he projects that actions on Yucca Mountain will continue to be influenced by Sen. Harry Reid.  On the other hand, the Administration's views on climate change could ultimately lead to carbon dioxide restrictions, and that could help nuclear power.  He also notes that the Administration's views are unfavorable towards some energy sources that are viewed as alternatives, or competitors, to nuclear power--for example, coal.

Indeed, the energy landscape is very complex, so even the expressed preferences of one Party for or against nuclear power are often overtaken by other issues, including the environment and the economy.  Therefore, I expect that the overall prospects for nuclear power will continue to be positive.  Growth will be slower than was projected at the height of the Renaissance--but some of us always projected it would be.  Even Marvin Fertel, the CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, always cautioned against over-optimism.  The key, as Linda Byus says, will be the recovery of the economy.




  1. I can't deny that, based on the applications of 5 years ago, I was hopeful of a lot more reactor starts than have transpired. The debacle over the Calvert Cliffs loan guarantee fee showed some of the bureaucratic obstacles littered in front of nuclear power even when an incentive is superficially on offer.

    Still, 4 new reactors in construction is a mile better than none.

  2. I live in Scotland and I am keen to see more nuclear power being used throughout the world.

    I have probably picked a bad place to live from this point of view because the current devolved administration in Scotland takes the view that no new nuclear is needed in nor wanted for Scotland. They think we'll have 50% renewable energy in the near future.

    However, I recently spoke to the local Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) to pass on my views. He does not a member of the Scottish Nationalist Party (the party of government) but was supportive of my view that New Nuclear should be part of the energy mix.

    Reading the above blog I would concur with the view that new nuclear is not a priority. I regret this is the case because of the economic and climate change advantages that new nuclear would provide. While my MSP is supportive of my views and listened politely and asked some good questions. I didn't think he had any enthusiasm to rock the boat and I had the impression that he felt there were higher priorities.