President Obama Announces "First New Nuclear Power Plant In Nearly Three Decades"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My reaction to this announcement is certainly not hostile, but I can't say I'm jumping up and down for joy either. I certainly have no philosophical objection to nuclear power. To the extent that nuclear power doesn't emit greenhouse gases and doesn't require us to import from countries that aren't our friends, that's a very good thing. So why am I kind of "meh" about this announcement?

As I wrote here, nuclear power is at the bottom in terms of cost effective global warming solutions (and, I'd add, "cost effective energy solutions"). In contrast, energy efficiency - aka, "negawatts" - gives us the most bang for the buck of any other clean energy or global warming solution. Energy efficiency is followed by 12 other energy sources - biomass cofiring, combined heat and power, wind, geothermal, etc. - before we finally get to nuclear power, which ranks above only "cleaner-coal"-based Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle. So, while I am certainly not against nuclear power per se, I question why we are spending limited government resources on the second-least effective (nuclear power) option out there. Frankly, this goes against everything I've ever learned, which is that you want to put your resources where you get the most bang for the buck.

In the end, if promoting nuclear power were part of a "grand bargain" in which we also get a price on carbon and a nationwide, mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard, that would be something to get excited about. But are we getting those things? So far, I don't see it. Which is why I'm not particularly thrilled about this announcement.