There are a lot of old nukes dotting the US electricity generation landscape, a situation that is problematic due to the fact that the US nuclear industry is slowly dying. Tight regulations, extremely high and escalating construction costs, consumer fear, and Toshiba’s exit from the US nuclear power landscape are all conspiring to kill an industry. What we’re left with in the wake of this implosion is a fleet of old nukes that need to be dealt with. Unfortunately, not only are they being “dealt with,” they are also receiving investment dollars that ought to be going elsewhere.
Maintaining Old Nukes = a Lost Opportunity
Old nukes are being pressed into continuing action due to requirements for utilities to expand usage of low carbon energy sources, which is typically thought of as renewable energy. However, renewable or so-called clean energy sources rely on the weather, which is not 100% reliable, and therefore nukes are often looked upon as the only other low-carbon option that can plug the gap.
This is causing some states to pour billions of dollars into keeping dying nukes operable, rather than investing in bigger and better renewable technologies. Simply put, funds are being diverted away from solar and wind generation projects and into the investment required to keep aging nuclear plants operating. This article has a detailed analysis of what exactly is going on here.
Look, as an emergency planning professional, I get it. Job #1 is maximizing reliability of supply, and with the increasing emphasis on renewable energy sources and other newer technologies, achieving this goal is increasingly easier said than done. But sooner or later many of these old nukes will need to be decommissioned, and thus the industry is essentially putting off the inevitable. The result is an opportunity cost in terms of investing in longer term clean energy solutions.