for the Nation’s Nuclear Power Plants
Extending operating licenses for reactors in a safe and reliable way is a smart move, as they are a “near carbon-free source of energy,” according to the APS report. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission allows power plants to operate up to 60 years, but extensions are available for an additional 20 years. The report finds that there are no technical show stoppers to running some plants for up to 80 years.
Furthermore, it urges utilities to consider the financial and environmental consequences of carbon emissions in their business decisions regarding nuclear and natural gas plants. Such considerations can also be factors for socially responsible investors who are concerned about increased carbon emissions in the U.S. Investors, with more than $3 trillion in assets and who use an environmental, social and governance criteria, have been effective at encouraging companies to consider environmental consequences in their business decisions.
In contrast to a coal or natural gas plant, nuclear reactors do not emit any of the six air pollutants identified in the Clean Air Act: ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, or lead.
• In contrast to a coal or natural gas plant, nuclear reactors provide a near-carbon-free source of energy, currently accounting for over 60% of the nation’s near-zero-carbon energy production and displacing an estimated 600 million tons of carbon per year.
The APS report specifically recommends the following:
An Enhanced Energy Strategy Pathway — As long as licenses can be safely renewed, U.S. energy strategies should make renewal a feasible choice. For example, for energy security and climate change reasons, the federal government or individual states could enact policies that support lowest-carbon sources; or, financial institutions could weigh environmental impact in valuating utilities and banks that finance utilities.
An Enhanced Research Pathway — A more substantial, fundamental research effort, with a long-term commitment, would better inform the assessments that will drive a decision whether to seek continued operation beyond the current license period. With additional resources, the current program at the U.S. Department of Energy would grow both deeper and broader, serving to reduce financial risks and uncertainties.
An Enhanced Leadership Pathway — The U.S. government should have a concentrated program to support the development, manufacturing and licensing of new nuclear reactors that can be built, operated and eventually decommissioned in a manner that is safe, environmentally sound and cost-effective
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