New nuclear projects, like this NuScale proposal, make no sense. The debate over nuclear power has ramped up recently in Utah, with a number of the state’s municipal power agencies wrestling with continued participation in an experimental nuclear project in Idaho, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems/NuScale project. Much has already been written about the project itself. Though proponents tout benefits of cost and reliability, two municipalities so far, Logan and Lehi, have recently opted out of further participation, citing mainly financial concerns over an experimental design with delays and cost overruns mounting rapidly. Still, this extremely expensive energy might be worth it ― if the environmental benefits, particularly for climate change, were significant. If the question were about building new nuclear generation versus new fossil (coal or natural gas) generation, they would have a point; the clear winner with respect to climate would be nuclear. But this isn’t the question. In rapidly decarbonizing the electrical grid, the name of the game is replacing existing high-carbon (coal and gas) with new low-carbon, as quickly as possible. In this game, it’s essential to distinguish between existing nuclear, which is already installed and running, and proposed new nuclear, which is yet to be built. Existing nuclear makes sense at the moment. The investments have already been made and are producing low-carbon energy right now, today. From a climate or carbon standpoint, these plants should continue to generate until all existing fossil generation can be shuttered. But proposed new nuclear makes no sense ― because it isn’t competing with fossils. Instead, new nuclear is competing with low-carbon renewables, chiefly solar and wind. And it simply can’t compete. Investing in new nuclear projects to combat climate change is akin to the crew of the Titanic devoting time to building a whole new ocean liner instead of putting all their effort into loading the lifeboats; it steals time and resources from a much better alternative. Any money spent on new nuclear could buy us four to six times more wind and solar energy, available in months instead of a decade. And, remember, the next 10 years are critical.
Deseret News 18th Sept 2020 read more »