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The High Cost of Nuclear Power

Joe Romm Testifies in the Senate

SOURCE: AP Photo/Jackie Johnston

A decommissioned nuclear reactor is prepared for burial under 45 feet of soil and rock at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state. Safe disposal is only one roadblock to widespread adoption facing nuclear power.

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CAPAF’s Joseph Romm testifies today to the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety of the  Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Read the full testimony.

Nuclear power generates approximately 20 percent of all U.S. electricity. And because it is a low-carbon source of around-the-clock power, it has received renewed interest as concern grows over the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on our climate.

Yet nuclear power’s own myriad limitations will constrain its growth, especially in the near term. These include:

  • Prohibitively high, and escalating, capital costs
  • Production bottlenecks in key components needed to build plants
  • Very long construction times
  • High electricity prices from new plants

The carbon-free power technologies that the nation and the world should focus on deploying right now at large scale are efficiency, wind power, and solar power. They are the lower-cost carbon-free strategies with minimal societal effects and the fewest production bottlenecks. They could easily meet all of U.S. demand for the next quarter -century, while substituting for some existing fossil fuel plants. In the medium- term (post-2020), other technologies, such as coal with carbon capture and storage or advanced geothermal, could be significant players, but only with a far greater development effort over the next decade.

Since nuclear power is a mature electricity generation technology with a large market share and is the beneficiary of some $100 billion in direct and indirect subsidies since 1948, it neither requires nor deserves significant subsidies in any future climate law.

Read Joseph Romm’s full testimony to the Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety of the  Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (CAPAF)

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