Republicans and many Democrats have high hopes for small nuclear reactors as an answer to climate change, but the nascent technology faces daunting regulatory and economic obstacles. “I am not optimistic that any kind of nuclear reactors will have any significant impact on climate change for the next 20 or 30 years,” said Allison Macfarlane, a former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who is now a professor at George Washington University. “It’s really hard to make the economics of nuclear power work.” The Trump administration is betting on nuclear, even as it opposes most government-led initiatives to curb climate change. It is investing money into the research and development of new reactors and fuels, promoting faster permitting approvals, and even signing up to buy power from NuScale, the company racing to be the first to operate a small modular nuclear reactor. “I am very optimistic this can be a low-carbon tool moving forward,” Rita Baranwal, the Energy Department’s assistant secretary of energy for nuclear energy, told the Washington Examiner in an interview. “It is essential to any country or community looking to minimize their carbon footprint.” While many environmentalists have been skeptical of nuclear energy on safety and cost grounds, some Democrats embrace nuclear energy, which provides most of America’s zero-carbon power. Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Andrew Yang are running on investment in small modular nuclear reactors. Bernie Sanders, by contrast, has said he would look to shut down existing nuclear plants, along with stopping new ones.
Washington Examiner 23rd Jan 2020 read more »