Choose nuclear, Korsnick tells US energy forum

31 January 2019

Solving the USA's energy and climate challenges is more complex than replacing carbon-emitting sources with intermittent renewables, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) president Maria Korsnick told the US Energy Association's 15th State of the Energy Industry Forum earlier this week.

Maria Korsnick addresses the USEA forum on 24 January (Image: NEI)

As rising carbon emissions threaten its climate, the USA faces a turning point, where choices about its electricity sources will affect its ability to protect the climate, as well as meet the country's growing energy needs, Korsnick said. Renewable sources are dependent on the sun shining or the wind blowing, and in most cases are backed up with gas plants, which emit carbon, she noted.

"Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads, with two paths in front of us. We can take the path that will diversify our energy mix: one that makes room for wind, solar and natural gas - but also for … nuclear. Or we take the other path, one that doesn't invest in nuclear, that leads to higher emissions," Korsnick said. "I think the choice is clear."

The USA's nuclear plants are highly efficient, operating at an average 92% capacity across the fleet, while the nuclear sector employs nearly a half million people, with nuclear plants acting as "economic engines" for communities that host them, she noted.

However, some US nuclear plants have been forced to close and others - including several plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania - are in danger of shutting down, she noted. This poses risks for the states where those plants are located: for example, in Pennsylvania, where nuclear employs 16,000 skilled workers while producing 42% of the state's electricity and 93% of its clean energy.

Nuclear's ability to produce "always-on, emission-free power" is gaining it new recognition from groups including the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Nature Conservancy, and "even Google", which have come to the conclusion that having nuclear as an option is essential for cutting carbon, she said.

"The scale of clean energy produced by nuclear is simply unmatched," Korsnick said. "We need to partner together - keep the solid nuclear foundation and build more emission-free options. Instead of abandoning nuclear, we need to embrace it and recognise there is no successful climate solution without it."

The annual State of the Energy Industry Forum, held every January at the National Press Club in Washington DC, is one of the US Energy Association's flagship meetings, bringing together leaders from energy trade associations to share their outlook and to discuss issues facing the energy industry in the year ahead.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News