ANS urges support for continued nuclear operation

19 May 2017

Nuclear power plants are key national assets and are vital to the USA's security and economic prosperity, according to a newly issued position statement from the American Nuclear Society (ANS). The organisation has called for policies, laws, market reforms and governmental support to ensure the continued operation of the country's existing nuclear fleet.

The ANS's Position Statement 26, US Commercial Nuclear Power Plants: A Vital National Asset, was created in recognition of the considerable economic challenges faced by the country's operating nuclear power plants, particularly those in deregulated electricity markets.

"Protecting the US fleet is in our national interest - it is essential that the plants continue to operate and provide clean, reliable base load electrical power," the organisation said as it launched the statement on 16 May.

The position statement notes: nuclear capacity generates about 20% of the USA's electricity while avoiding the emission of nearly 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year; it helps to diversify energy supply, with its high reliability and availability supporting the stability of the country's domestic electricity grid; and sustained operation of the current fleet is therefore vital to the nation's security and economic prosperity.

At the same time, the strength of the USA's domestic nuclear industry, including its regulatory regime, underpins US influence over global nuclear safety and non-proliferation standards, the statement says, with US experts engaged in a wide range of nuclear projects worldwide.

"Maintaining this level of involvement and leadership requires a strong domestic nuclear fleet: we cannot develop and maintain the necessary professional talent without it," the ANS says.

The failure of many US electricity markets to recognise and compensate nuclear operators for such attributes has, however, led to distortions resulting in the premature shutdown of several plants and made the construction of new nuclear capacity financially challenging, the society said. This is potentially compromising the future reliability of the US electricity system, it added.

The ANS makes three recommendations: the enactment of federal and state policies to "level the playing field" between nuclear power and other clean energy generation technologies; the adjustment of state laws and electricity market rules to support nuclear power, including market reforms to fully support the attributes of nuclear power and to allow for regional and state capacity planning; and a greater role for the federal government in supporting nuclear power.

"Nuclear power plants have a vital role to play in the reliability of our electricity grid, our national energy independence, the health of our climate, and the achievement of global nuclear non-proliferation. The current US nuclear fleet cannot support these objectives if its economic health is undermined by markets that do not recognise or compensate nuclear for the benefits it offers. The American Nuclear Society supports actions to bolster the current nuclear fleet and improve its economic future," the statement concludes.

The ANS is not-for-profit, international, scientific and educational organisation for professionals within the various fields of nuclear science and technology. Established in 1954 at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC, ANS's current membership of around 11,000 engineers, scientists, administrators and educators represent over 1600 corporations, educational institutions and government agencies.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Filed under: Energy policy, USA