Opt for nuclear energy to meet our electricity needs

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February 7, 2022 12:04 PM ET

A nuclear power plant in Seabrook, NH, 2011.


Photo:

Jim Cole/Associated Press

In “If You Want Clean Power, Go Fission” (editorial, January 27), Robert Hargraves notes that fission is all the rage in several countries as the disadvantages of intermittent wind and solar power become apparent. Unfortunately, that is not the case here in America.

There are a number of partially completed light water nuclear power plants in the country. They could be completed, saving the time and cost of a fresh start. The one I know best is Seabrook Station in New Hampshire, where I was the project manager for the design and construction. One of the two units has been completed and is functioning. The incomplete unit has a complete cooling water system with two tunnels extending under the ocean. Site excavation is complete and structures partially completed. The design has been finished but will need to be modified.

The completion of nuclear power plants could revive the production of electricity without carbon dioxide emissions. But it won’t be easy, as factory owners are wary of financial risk and regulatory uncertainty, and it’s unlikely without bipartisan congressional action and presidential support.

Frank Cole

Williamsburg, Virginia.

Calls to address public perceptions and the real risk of nuclear accidents predate Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. While laudable, this argument is unlikely to generate widespread public support for nuclear power. A more compelling argument focuses on energy availability, climate, and national security.

The Energy Information Administration projects that non-transmission electricity demand will return to 2019 levels by 2025, then grow nearly 2% per year to more than 30% above the current level by 2050. Market penetration of electric vehicles and zero carbon regulations will add further points to demand growth.

Renewables and energy efficiency alone cannot meet even modest, economy-wide increases in a timeframe consistent with climate goals. Nuclear is the only proven alternative to non-fossil fuels that is scalable, using new designs to provide 24/7/365 baseload supply to fill the gap.

Nuclear also aligns well with national security concerns, especially avoiding disruption by foreign suppliers. The situation in Ukraine shows that reliable energy availability is national security.

Recourse to nuclear power offers a realistic way forward. Capital investment, tax incentives, regulatory certainty and public-private partnerships are the keys to achieving this.

Professor James L. Regens

University of Oklahoma

Nichols Hills, Okla.

Eugene A. Hughes

Managing Director, Etranco

Carmel, California.

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Appeared in the print edition of February 8, 2022 under the title “Nuclear energy to meet our electricity needs”.


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