Observers watching the U.S. nuclear industry can tell you that the industry is struggling through a rough patch right now. Few new plants are being considered for construction. A number of those in the construction process – such as Southern Company’s Vogtle plant – have suffered delays and cost overruns. And some that had been on the drawing board, such as Florida Power & Light’s Levy plant – which saw budget estimates balloon from an original four to six billion to over 24 billion dollars – have been scrapped altogether.
The nuclear industry is pushing back against this dynamic, and has recently formed an initiative called “Nuclear Matters” to call attention to the fact that existing nukes provide some very significant benefits to society. Their position is that we should do everything we can to ensure these valuable generating assets continue operating. The organization has brought together some powerful voices to make their case, including former U.S. Senators and other politicians from both sides of the aisle.
If we can extend the existing nuclear plants, rather than retiring them prematurely, we can create important optionality at this critical tipping point, at a time when our country’s energy future truly needs it. This optionality should be ascribed to nuclear plants and valued as such in the policy debates that occur in the coming months and years and we should think long and hard before we give that optionality away.