A US Nuclear Exit? (Part 4): The US energy mix and carbon dioxide emissions

Source:Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) has released its third and final issue in its Nuclear Exit series, this time turning its expert focus on the United States. The first two installments looked at Germany and France, countries that share a border but are - for historical, political, and economic reasons - answering the nuclear power question in different ways.

The fourth editorial piece in this five-part installment to be presented on PennEnergy.com comes from Henry D. Jacoby and Sergey Paltsev, who have played leading roles in MIT’s prestigious Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. In their analysis, Nuclear exit, the US energy mix, and carbon dioxide emissions, Jacoby and Paltsev explore the impacts of a US nuclear phase-out on greenhouse gas emissions, electricity prices, and national economic performance.

Part 1: Introduction- A US Nuclear Exit

Part 2: How to close the US nuclear industry: Do nothing

Part 3: The Limited National Security Implications of Civilian Nuclear Decline

Part 5: The Economics of a US Civilian Nuclear Phase-Out


Nuclear Exit, the US Energy Mix, and Carbon Dioxide Emissions
by Henry D. Jacoby and Sergey Paltsev

If the United States were to adopt a policy to phase out nuclear generation, as has happened recently in other developed countries, what would the environmental and energy-mix implications be? Based on alternative scenarios of nuclear exit that consider the influence of potential policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions, a model of the US and global economy indicates that, under current policy, a US nuclear exit would increase carbon dioxide emissions, and likely raise electricity prices and reduce gross domestic product by relatively small amounts. Those economic impacts would be increased by additional measures to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

A number of issues have combined to stymie nuclear plant investment in the United States, importantly including its high per-kilowatt-hour cost compared to coal (MIT Energy Initiative, 2009). But even with no new plants starting operation since the mid-1990s, license extensions and upgrades in the capacity of existing units have maintained nuclear generation in the neighborhood of 20 percent of US electricity supply for the past quarter century. In the last decade or so, there was talk of a nuclear renaissance, in the United States and elsewhere, stirred by the expectation of penalties on carbon dioxide emissions, improved capacity factors and safer designs, and (in the United States at least) more supportive federal regulations and subsidies.

But then came Fukushima. Whatever one’s view of the reality of the earlier renaissance, the accident appears to have substantially dimmed the future of the industry.1 The effect on Japan has been particularly dramatic, creating difficulty in restarting units down for maintenance at the time of the accident or shut in its aftermath and initiating an on-and-off policy of complete phase-out by 2040. There also has been a strong response in Europe—notably in Switzerland, Italy, and Germany, which have imposed phase-out plans—and there is even talk of a partial phase-out in France (France 24, 2012).

Continue here: Nuclear Exit, the US Energy Mix, and Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Part 1: Introduction- A US Nuclear Exit

Part 2: How to close the US nuclear industry: Do nothing

Part 3: The Limited National Security Implications of Civilian Nuclear Decline
Part 5: The Economics of a US Civilian Nuclear Phase-Out

 

 

 

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