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.



Energy and Climate: Where Do We Focus Our Efforts?

Energy and Climate: Where Do We Focus Our Efforts?

I recently posted a commentary in The Hill explaining why the U.S. could do better than the Clean Power Plan (CPP). As always, I try and implore others to look at the bigger picture and see global climate change as the global issue it actually is and not just a U.S. issue only. In addition, I try and emphasize that without nuclear power we can’t meet future global energy demands and global carbon objectives simultaneously. While regulatory efforts focus on curbing emissions from the U.S. electric power sector, data trends continue to point to the east and to emerging economies as to where we must focus our attention; not to curb their energy consumption, but to engage with them in technologies that will help them meet their economic objectives.

Figure 1. Total CO2 emissions for world’s top 15 GDPs

Continue reading “Energy and Climate: Where Do We Focus Our Efforts?”

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.


Regulated Markets: A Critical Role for Nuclear Power

Regulated Markets:
A Critical Role for Nuclear Power

Georgia Tech recently convened an an Energy, Policy and Innovation Conference that was well-attended by some highly respected individuals in the energy sector. Among them were former Senator Sam Nunn, former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, and Southern Company Chairman/President/CEO Tom Fanning.

I sat in on the discussions reported in this EnergyWire article article, and they were indeed debated vigorously all day. It was interesting to see the dichotomy between academicians and industry professionals, which I generally contend is problematic in energy issues as the theoretical proposals from the academic space often hit the brick wall of reality in the practitioner space. However, setting that aside for the moment, I wanted to comment on a few things mentioned in this very good article by Kristi Swartz. Continue reading “Regulated Markets: A Critical Role for Nuclear Power”

Climate Talks Should Be About Energy, National Security and Economic Development

Climate Talks Should Be About Energy, National Security and Economic Development

This is an excerpt from my recent energy policy paper.

International climate talks are energy talks, and energy talks are talks about national security, poverty, and humanitarian relief, as well as opportunities for U.S. industry to engage in global investment opportunities, particularly in the development of power generation infrastructure. As such, climate talks are discussions about world order and the projection of worldviews. Therefore, these are opportunities for the U.S. to provide global leadership and remain diplomatically engaged in an issue of common interest to 196 other countries—a hallmark of U.S. diplomacy since World War I. It isn’t incumbent on the Trump administration to agree on the extent to which climate is changing or even on the cause of climate change. But, it can agree that international climate talks are opportunities to negotiate, to project America’s ideals, and to remain strategically engaged with world leaders on what is arguably one of the most critical issues of our time—energy. Consequently, the scale of U.S. energy policy must match the scale of the issues—that being, climate and poverty issues at the global scale. If the issues are global, the solutions must be as well and nuclear will be necessary. Continue reading “Climate Talks Should Be About Energy, National Security and Economic Development”