UGA-Georgia Tech Professors Agree: Georgia PSC Made Right Decision on Vogtle

UGA-Georgia Tech Professors Agree:
Georgia PSC and GA Legislature Made the Right Decisions on Plant Vogtle

David Gattie, UGA Engineering Professor
Nolan Hertel, Georgia Institute of Technology Engineering Professor
[Full Article is in James Magazine (p. 12-13).]

Only one state in the U.S. is diversifying its energy portfolio by balancing out coal with natural gas, developing solar energy in a deliberate and economically feasible manner and expanding its zero-carbon nuclear power base. Only one state—the state of Georgia. And this can be attributed to the foresight of the Georgia Public Service Commission (GA PSC) in its December 2017 decision to move forward with the completion of Vogtle Units 3 & 4 as well as the Georgia Legislature and its passage of SB 31 in 2009, which saved ratepayers millions of dollars in interest charges that would have otherwise accumulated throughout the Vogtle construction phase.

I, along with my co-author, Professor Hertel, applaud both the GA PSC and the Georgia State Legislature for recognizing this as the energy policy issue it is, and handling it as such, rather than reacting to it as a market issue only. The non-monetized benefits of nuclear power, which includes national security, must be accounted for in order for the U.S. to sustain its nuclear power industry long-term. With the recent decision regarding Plant Vogtle, Georgia has served a critical role in helping the U.S. hold onto valuable ground in nuclear science, engineering and technology.

However, there’s still much more work to be done, and, hopefully, U.S. policymakers will take advantage of this reprieve and develop a comprehensive energy strategy that pragmatically and aggressively advances U.S. nuclear power domestically and abroad. And that must begin with extending the Production Tax Credit for nuclear–otherwise, we lose the ground that the Georgia PSC and State Legislature decisions are holding for us. Let’s not waste their efforts. Without the PTC, nuclear power in America remains in jeopardy.

For my own proposal on a strategic policy framework for advancing nuclear power, see my pre-publication version of a recently accepted article that will be published in the Jan-Feb issues of The Electricity Journal: Link here–> (Gattie 2017) Strategic Policy for US Nuclear Power [Pre-Publication Format] .





The Non-Monetized Benefits of Nuclear Power: The Case for Vogtle

The Non-Monetized Benefits of Nuclear Power: The Case for Vogtle

(Full op-ed is in The Hill)

The state of Georgia remains in the throes of a debate that will have long-term impacts on the state’s electric power sector, its economy and, very likely, the long-term prospects for nuclear power in America. That debate being whether or not to continue with the construction of Vogtle Units 3 & 4.

Reservations about moving forward with the Vogtle project rest predominantly on financial arguments related to cost overruns. This was conveyed by the Georgia Public Service Commission Public Interest Advocacy Staff (the PSC Staff) in their report recently submitted to the Georgia Public Service Commission (GA PSC). While the financials of Vogtle shouldn’t be lightly regarded, a cost analysis alone fails to convey the full benefits of nuclear power.

There are other benefits…non-monetized benefits such as resource diversity, policy resilience and national security. Benefits that are arguably the most important benefits of nuclear power. And these benefits must be accounted for in the decision on whether or not to go forward with Vogtle.  More broadly, they also must be accounted for in our national debate on the future of nuclear power in America.

While financial analyses are certainly necessary, financials alone cannot account for the non-monetized benefits of nuclear power. However, PSC commissioners can. That’s why the Vogtle decision is a policy decision, not just a monetizable market decision. The same holds true for nuclear power in the U.S. We need comprehensive policy that sustains and expands nuclear power in the U.S.

For full op-ed in The Hill, click this link.


The U.S. Can Do Better Than the Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Can Do Better Than the Clean Power Plan

(Full op-ed is in The Hill)

Opposition to the Clean Power Plan (CPP) isn’t synonymous with opposition to science. In my case, it’s opposition to bad policy.

When introduced, the CPP was promoted as “the result of unprecedented outreach to states, tribes, utilities, stakeholders and the public”. It’s objective was to reduce carbon emissions from the U.S. power sector to levels 32% below 2005 levels and provide an example for the world to follow. To do so, it proposed three building blocks: 1) Improve heat rates at coal-fired power plants; 2) Increase generation from lower-emitting natural gas combined cycle plants; and 3) Incorporate more renewable energy.

Tens of millions of dollars (federal, state and industry actors) were likely expended in this unprecedented two-year outreach effort only to conclude with a rule mandating that the U.S. electric power sector carry on with what it was already doing.

The CPP was simplistic and misdirected, and the U.S. can do better than this with a more coordinated approach to cooperative federalism that empowers our states and national energy labs to collaborate with other federal agencies and state universities in the development of advanced energy technologies, particularly nuclear and CCS, in order to really impact carbon emissions at the global scale.

The issue is global climate, and it will require high-tech global solutions.


America is Sacrificing its Leadership Role in Nuclear Energy

America is Sacrificing its Leadership Role in Nuclear Energy

(This is an excerpt from my commentary published in The Hill.)

Does nuclear power have a future in the United States? Perhaps the more important question should be: Does America have the vision and national resolve to develop comprehensive energy policies to maintain our leadership in nuclear energy?

Nuclear energy is our only energy resource with the proven capacity to meet U.S. domestic objectives for reliable generation, economic growth and national security. And to meet our global objectives of economic development for emerging regions and the reduction of carbon emissions.

Choosing the right policies to rescue America’s nuclear leadership may be difficult, but the direction is straightforward: We must finish the two reactors under construction at Plant Vogtle in Georgia and the MOX fuel facility in South Carolina.

To read the full commentary, go to The Hill.


U.S. National Security and a Call for American Primacy in Civilian Nuclear Power

U.S. National Security And A Call For American Primacy In Civilian Nuclear Power

(This is an excerpt from my commentary published in Forbes.)

Civilian nuclear in America is struggling, the world is watching, and aggressive national initiatives are needed to elevate nuclear power as the national security issue it should be. However, this is not the time for half measures or timidity. Moreover, the objective should not be limited to stopgap measures that rescue a few nuclear plants imperiled by market economics that cannot detect or monetize the national security benefits of nuclear. These efforts, while necessary, are insufficient as they lack long-range strategy, vision and an institutional commitment that would project to the world that America has the power and political resolve to live up to its original national and international security obligations. What’s called for is a national commitment to nothing short of American primacy in the full cycle of civilian nuclear power—that being, nuclear energy resources, fuel enrichment and fabrication, advanced reactor technologies (small modular, molten salt, fast breeders), fuel reprocessing and waste management.

President Trump recently announced his commitment to energy dominance and Secretary Perry reiterated a commitment to an all-the-above energy strategy. However, there can be no U.S. energy dominance in an all-the-above energy strategy without American primacy in the technologies to stand up those energy resources. This is particularly applicable to nuclear power. Therefore, as President Trump develops his formal National Security Strategy, he has an opportunity to set a precedent by including American primacy in civilian nuclear power as a national security objective, thus elevating it as a strategic national security interest.


Nuclear Power in America: All Eyes Are On Georgia and Plant Vogtle

Nuclear Power in America:
All Eyes Are On Georgia and Plant Vogtle

This was originally published in

On July 30, 2017 the United States had four nuclear reactors under construction along with the hope of a comeback for nuclear power. As of July 31, 2017, the United States is down to two reactors as South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (SCE&G), principal subsidiary of SCANA, made the decision to halt construction on its two reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.

It appears the hope for a nuclear comeback in the U.S., at least for the immediate future, rests with two reactors at Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Georgia. The implications, however, aren’t limited to Georgia and South Carolina, and they aren’t trivial. Continue reading “Nuclear Power in America: All Eyes Are On Georgia and Plant Vogtle”

Nuclear Power in America Requires Political Resolve

Nuclear Power in America Requires
Political Resolve

(This is an excerpt from my commentary in Morning Consult)

For three decades U.S. nuclear power has been strongly influenced by three forces—one from the market, one from regulations and one from apathy. Consequently, nuclear power in America has lost ground that must be reclaimed in order to enhance grid reliability, meet economic and climate objectives, and maintain national security.

While the immediate nuclear power issues in Georgia and South Carolina are due to the financial condition of an international corporation headquartered in Japan, the outcome may well determine the fate of nuclear power in America. Therefore, this isn’t about whether nuclear power works—it does. This isn’t about whether nuclear power can support U.S. economic and climate objectives—it can. This isn’t about whether nuclear power in America is safe—it is. This is about whether America has the political resolve to correct past apathy towards nuclear power, promote nuclear as the clean energy resource it is, and sustain nuclear power as a critical technology to safely and reliably meet economic, climate and national security objectives—objectives shared by U.S. leadership across the political spectrum and throughout all 50 states.


An America Without Nuclear Power

An America Without Nuclear Power

[Full commentary published in Forbes]

The U.S. is facing a critical and decisive moment in its energy policy history and it centers on the single most versatile energy resource mankind has ever learned to harness–nuclear. As the world struggles with an expanding global economy, increasing carbon emissions, and greater and greater demands for more energy to lift emerging regions out of poverty, the U.S. is deliberating whether or not it should even maintain a civilian nuclear power sector. As existing U.S. nuclear power plants struggle to remain in operation and new plant constructions deal with unforeseen financial challenges following decades of dormancy in the U.S., anti-nuclear activists circle the nuclear power sector like buzzards, hoping to pick its bones clean and leave it for dead. In this Forbes piece, my colleague, Scott Jones, and I explain how an America without nuclear power an America without nuclear power has implications that extend beyond even the challenges that are so clearly associated with trying to responsibly meet the low-carbon energy demands of the future without nuclear power.


U.S. Energy Policy Needs Stability and Nuclear Power

Energy Policy for the U.S. Power Sector Must Include Stability And Nuclear Power

The marginalization of nuclear power is arguably the most egregious development to come out of environmental organizations that claim to be concerned about climate change. While historical opposition to nuclear power can be attributed to a range of social, political and environmental concerns, current efforts to exclude this zero-carbon resource are a travesty of environmentalism. It’s long past time to allow the U.S. nuclear industry to do its part to help us meet climate and economic objectives. [Full Commentary Here]

Georgia Magazine, a publication of Georgia Electric Membership Corporation, recently published my commentary on U.S. energy policy as it pertains to the U.S. power sector. Our efforts to address economic and climate issues at the U.S. and global levels will be greatly improved by incorporating stability in our energy policy but will be impossible without nuclear power.

EPA’s Clean Power Plan: We Can Do Better

How Can Someone Who is Concerned About Carbon Emissions and the Potential Impacts of Climate Change Be Opposed to EPA’s Clean Power Plan?

[A version of this post entitled, “U.S. Missing the Mark on Climate Policy” was published in GeorgiaPol as a guest Op-Ed]

The old expression, “Every little bit helps”, doesn’t hold true for global CO2 emissions if the little bit that helps in one country doesn’t translate and scale up to something systemic and impactful in emerging economies throughout the world where billions live in energy poverty and more energy is needed, not less. EPA’s Clean Power Plan is such an example as it gives the appearance of commitment to addressing climate change issues, yet will have little-to-no impact on the actual issues of energy, carbon, and climate at the scale of concern: the global scale. We don’t need this sort of regulatory greenwashing to respond to an issue of this magnitude.
We can do better than this…we have to.

Top 15 GDP’s in the world (based on 2015) ranked by CO2 intensitytop-15-gdp-for-cpp-blog Continue reading “EPA’s Clean Power Plan: We Can Do Better”