Wright: Nuclear Essential for Energy, Jobs

A March 1st opinion piece in Insider Advantage serves as an important reminder about the value of nuclear power to American energy. The author, Tal Wright, is an Atlanta-area media and marketing communications consultant. The piece, entitled “Nuclear Power Must Remain an Option for Energy & Jobs” and reprinted in its entirety below, is available online here.

Interviews with laid off coal miners in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s victory may be anecdotal, but they’re a reminder of the demise of just one industry that has provided generations of families with well-paying, blue collar jobs that have been lost to new environmental regulations.

The Trump Administration inherited President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which will result in cleaner and more expensive power production – and energy-related job losses – well into Trump’s presidency. In this context, the U. S. Energy Information Administration projects a total of 92 gigawatts of coal-fueled capacity will retire by 2030 – about 30 percent more (32 GW) without Obama’s EPA Clean Power Plan requirement.

That’s a lot of coal-fueled power plants and thousands, if not millions, of jobs that will continue to disappear on Trump’s watch – due to U. S. government regulations – not international competitors or unbridled immigration.

Combined with lower natural gas prices and the extension of renewable tax credits, Obama’s plan will accelerate utilities’ shift toward less carbon-intensive generation. That’s good news for the environment – and bad news for American workers and the country’s energy future.

The huge contributions that coal-fueled plants make to the electric energy grid are being replaced largely by natural-gas fueled generators. These plants emit significantly fewer pollutants than coal, and are capable of meeting large, base-load energy demands. And since most U.S. utilities have given up on nuclear, and already use natural gas to meet base load and peak needs, America is well on its way to becoming overly dependent on natural gas as a source of electricity.

While we should continue to invest in renewables like solar and wind, it’s important to remember these technologies rely on unpredictable weather patterns.

Nuclear power must remain an option for replacing at least a portion of the 92 gigawatts of coal-fueled electric energy production and thousands of lost jobs.

But nuclear power’s future is in jeopardy.

Toshiba, the Japanese firm which owns Westinghouse, the company that builds reactors and nuclear power plants, recently announced it would take a multi-billion dollar charge against operations due to cost overruns, quality control problems, and delays at the four nuclear power units currently under construction in the United States.

Two of these new units are under construction at Plant Vogtle, a nuclear power plant complex located southeast of Augusta.

Westinghouse has experienced many of the same problems that occurred with earlier nuclear power construction projects – including design changes, mandated by regulators, despite pre-approved, standardized designs.

Nuclear power plants take years to build, cost billions to construct, employ thousands of people during their construction phases and hundreds of people for operations. They generate thousands of megawatts of electric energy, produce almost zero emissions and serve customers for up to 60 years.

There are reports about the need to repair or replace crumbling highways, bridges and other public infrastructure, and how these projects could help create jobs for Americans. We’ve got an equal amount of work to do on the nation’s energy infrastructure.

That’s why our nation should preserve nuclear power as an option for replacing at least a portion of the 92 gigawatts of electric energy production and thousands of lost jobs it is about to lose.