US report sets out policy options for nuclear preservation

27 January 2017

A bipartisan organization supporting US state legislatures has published a new report providing an overview of state action and policy options for legislators who are interested in preserving nuclear assets in their state.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) report, State options to keep nuclear in the mix, provides background on the current situation of US nuclear power plants and discusses the policies, trends and market conditions that have led to the current environment.

The report says that, while nuclear power provides almost 20% of the USA's electricity generation, some nuclear plants in restructured electricity markets are finding it difficult to adapt to changes brought about by competing energy sources and relatively low growth in electricity demand. This has challenged nuclear's place in the energy mix and drawn the attention of utilities, regulators, federal officials and state policymakers.

"Although a number of reasons drive why legislators are exploring policies that support nuclear generation, primary factors include the high reliability of nuclear power, its carbon-free emissions profile and nuclear's economic contribution to states," the report notes.

The report suggests a number of policy options that states who set themselves the goal of retaining the current nuclear fleet could consider to relieve some of the pressures placed on operating nuclear facilities. It aims to provide legislators with a suite of possible options such as zero-emissions credits, tax incentives, the creation of state-wide nuclear mandates, and clean energy subsidy payments.

While making case studies of recent legislation enacted to preserve nuclear capacity in Illinois and New York, the authors note that individual state needs may differ. Legislatures may therefore want to consider a variety of policies to retain their most at-risk nuclear plants.

Report authors Daniel Shea and Kristy Hartman said the report aims to raise awareness and foster dialogue. "The nation's nuclear facilities are facing an unprecedented array of challenges as nuclear power looks to compete in a rapidly changing energy market," they said. "State legislatures play a critical role in determining the future of US nuclear power. At least 21 states are considering measures to support the continued use of nuclear generation in recent legislative sessions. In the final months of 2016, Illinois and New York took action to prevent the premature closure of several nuclear plants, but across the country, challenges remain."

Christine Csizmadia, director of state governmental affairs and advocacy at the US Nuclear Energy Institute, said state legislatures played a vital role in developing policies affecting the viability of existing nuclear power plants. She said the report presented state policymakers with "an array of solutions" to choose from. "Every state is unique and so will be their approach to energy planning. That is why NCSL's report is such a comprehensive tool for state legislators", Csizmadia said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Filed under: Energy policy, USA