US Energy Secretary Rick Perry took the stage at the White House to announce that nuclear energy should be part of America’s “energy dominance.” For 30 years the industry was allowed to “atrophy,” he said.
The Trump administration is advocating for nuclear energy not only because it’s a “zero emission” source but also because “it’s about America maintaining ‒ regaining may be a better word ‒ of our leadership role in nuclear energy because Russians and Chinese are actively engaged across the board, globally, to go put their technology to gain and leverage their political place,” Perry explained during Tuesday’s White House press briefing.
The former Texas governor reminisced of the time when he was a young man and it was common to dream about becoming a nuclear engineer. He said this administration wants to make nuclear energy “cool again.”
The energy secretary did not say how specifically the government wants to help nuclear energy producers. He claimed the field was “strangled all too often because of government regulations.”
However, the industry itself sees low-cost gas, particularly from shale gas developments, as the main cause of their struggle.
A number of states, including New York and Illinois, threw their struggling plants lifelines in the form of subsidies, referred to as zero-emission credits. Nuclear energy is recognized as having a very low carbon-emission footprint.
Opponents of the subsidy, many of whom are the industry’s competitors, claim these schemes illegally interfere with power markets.
The US is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30 percent of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity, according to the World Nuclear Association. In 2016, the country’s 100 nuclear reactors produced almost a fifth of its total electricity output.
A recent study by researchers from Princeton University and the Union of Concerned Scientists warned the US underestimated the risks to its nuclear safety, saying that a single nuclear fuel fire could lead to fallout “much greater than Fukushima,” referring to the Japanese nuclear disaster caused by a massive tsunami in 2011.