President Obama has finally addressed climate change in the United States, making good on his campaign promise to ensure that the United States joins the international community in committing to reduce carbon emissions. The plan proposed contains many factors that will affect the energy market in the US, specifically the nuclear industry.
It was obvious from the President’s address that coal-burning power plants were going to be held accountable for their emissions levels both now and in new build. With Obama’s emphasis on understanding the role that electrical power production plays in carbon emissions we can easily anticipate the US’s renewed interest in surveying cleaner power supplies. Although renewable energy sources are the most environmental friendly type of power, they are not the most sustainable. The current technology in renewable energy sources is not enough to power our electricity grid alone and the costs within the current economic climate see renewables as a competitor to social policies. Cost-benefit analysis consistently shows that currently, nuclear is the most sustainable solution available for energy demands.
Recently, the US has fallen behind in nuclear power development when compared to other developed countries. Although nuclear power supplies around 19% of American energy supplies, the new reactors currently under production are the first new build in more than 30 years. This is interesting when considering the following global new build developments: 69 reactors are now under construction worldwide, with between 150-200 planned built reactors. Of these, 28 are in China, 11 are in Russia, and 7 are in India. Will the United States engage in sustainable nuclear development or risk falling behind energy demands yet again?