From Scott Carlberg

Nuclear and renewables – We need a both of the above energy policy.

We use an energy system. An energy symphony, perhaps, because each facet of energy generation and transmissions plays its own part. Together they strike the right tone.

Renewables and nuclear, not an either/or energy choice.

ECC brings this up after our recent blog about Duke Energy’s plan to extend the licenses of its nuclear plants. Context for the use of nuclear power is important.

As we look at ways to reduce our carbon emissions the ideas of energy variety and teamwork are even more important.

The essay on the web

In 2014 an essay, Nuclear vs. renewables: Divided they fall, colored outside the lines of general thinking, in a good way. “Media outlets have reported the schism between nuclear and renewables as if it’s a sporting contest, play by play. But the planet’s fate is no game…” said the essay.

Good essay worth dusting off today. Energy interests can work for a collaborative good for society. High energy dense nuclear complements low dense renewables. Base load nuclear covers for renewables that cannot be 100% on. The essay argued for a spirit of cooperation to reduce the use of high-carbon fuels.

About this new framework: “That won’t be easy for environmental groups with a long history of anti-nuclear activism,” said the essay. The common goal of severely reducing carbon must supersede knee jerk reactions to renewables and nuclear.

Fast forward from 2014 to today. The blink of an eye in energy time. Some bridges have been built across that renewable/nuclear divide. For example, these are some news items and reports:

  • “Renewables are good, but not good enough,” said one report in 2015.
  • “We need a low-carbon electricity standard. A well-designed LCES could prevent the early closure of nuclear power plants while supporting the growth of other low carbon technologies,” said the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2018.
  • “The [climate] urgency is forcing decision-makers to revisit their attitudes to nuclear. Those arguing for 100 per cent renewables — and I was one of them … realized how much misinformation is out there. If you look at its full record and its full life cycle, nuclear is safe, reliable and clean.” (Source)
  • As world leaders meet at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York this week … director general of World Nuclear Association, stresses that nuclear power is the “unsung hero” in global efforts to reduce carbon emissions.  (Sept. 25) (Right)
  • “…keep in mind the incredible amounts of subsidies that renewables receive and that are responsible for their comparatively low-cost electricity. So if there is real political will to decarbonize, one could envision some level of subsidies for nuclear as well to disincentivize the usage of coal & natural gas.” (Source)

These are news items repeated many times a day. The science behind the news is repeated, too. Issues with nuclear are ones of technique (bureaucracy/politics) versus technology.

Clarion alarm bells might make people pull together. Yet in 2014, “…advocates for nuclear and renewables are doing just the opposite: They’re competing with each other for government favors and bickering over the question of what should replace fossil fuels, at times framing the debate as an either-or choice.”

More worrisome: “Although both sides acknowledge the magnitude of the climate crisis, they stubbornly refuse to grow up and face the facts: Even with huge expansions of both nuclear and renewables, keeping global warming below a dangerous level will be a tough order.” (From the essay)

There is a lot of room for growth for renewables AND nuclear. Source: Energy Information Agency

Those 2014 words may still have a lot of truth.

Power customers are ahead of the curve in North and South Carolina with the significant nuclear advantages they already have. Renewables are being put in place to increase emission-free power. Good, it is and versus either/or.

Readers of this column can push for more. Ask elected officials for a commonsense and inclusive approach in our energy portfolio. Drop old and partisan frameworks.

Why?

As experts from across the world reflected at the United Nations in New York recently, “Earth is in more hot water than ever before, and so are we.”