U.S. Headed Toward “Rest of World” Status in Nuclear Power
According to the International Energy Agency, China and India will account for 91% of the growth in global nuclear power through the year 2040. The U.S. isn’t identified in the pie chart, but instead is either absent or included in the category of “Rest of World”. A recent CNBC article expands further on India, which has high aspirations for expanding its nuclear capacity and is opening its markets to outside investment. This is good news for climate change as it might help curb India’s appetite for developing coal-fired capacity. However, U.S. industry faces strong headwinds if it hopes to compete in the global nuclear market as it will be up against deep pocket, state-owned enterprises in other countries.
Figure 1. The future disposition of nuclear power. This is under the conditions that U.S. nuclear plants retire after a 60-year life cycle and China continues with its projected nuclear construction plans.
Sustainability has always been about “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” But that is rarely extended to nuclear power and national security. If the U.S. is to sustain its global leadership in nuclear power for the benefit of future generations, it must develop a sense of urgency about U.S. nuclear power policy and establish a public-private partnership that helps the U.S. nuclear industry to compete with state-owned nuclear enterprises.
If opposition or inattention to growth and development of the U.S. nuclear enterprise becomes stagnant to the point of atrophy, America eventually will be on its knees before China in nuclear science, engineering and technology expertise. The issue here isn’t one of nationalism. Rather, it’s an issue of national security as U.S. expertise and influence in the global cycle of nuclear technology fades and it’s an issue of the U.S. being able to compete in global nuclear markets that are opening up to new nuclear development.
When the future of global nuclear power is being discussed and the U.S. disposition is lumped into the category of “Rest of World”, something is amiss–and part of what’s amiss is a public and political sense of urgency as to how critical this is.