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Renewable energy won’t be able to make up for the loss of carbon-free electricity resulting from a wave of nuclear-power plant closures in the coming decades, according to a new report released today by environmental group Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

Expand chart
Reproduced from Center for Climate and Energy Solutions; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: This group’s report, which also includes policy proposals, represents a growing urgency among some environmentalists that carbon-free nuclear power should be part of the equation addressing climate change despite other big concerns, such as upfront costs and what to do with radioactive waste.

“The nut we really want to crack is how renewables and nuclear can work together for each other’s mutual benefit. We need to have 80% reductions by 2050. We’re not going to get there if renewables and nuclear are fighting each other.”
— Doug Vine, senior energy fellow, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Fast facts: Nuclear power provides 20% of America's electricity, though more than 50% of its carbon-free power.

Report highlights:

  • The nuclear reactors that have already shut down are being replaced mostly by natural gas, “sending U.S. emissions in the wrong direction.”
  • Noting that any federal policy driving nuclear power is unlikely in the near term, the report says action by states and corporations will be key.
  • Some states are already taking action, and New York’s electric-grid operator floated a proposal last week about how it could put a price on carbon emissions within its system, which would help nuclear plants.
  • Nuclear energy’s carbon-free attribute may not be attractive enough for cities and companies without coming up with a federal answer to store spent fuel: “solving the long-term waste challenge will likely be important to win support for nuclear power from cities and businesses,” the report states.

What's next: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency is gearing up to review requests from companies to run some nuclear reactors for an unprecedented 80 years, 20 years longer than current operating licenses. Assumptions about future emissions levels also assume the agency approves these requests, in a process that could take a couple of years.

Go deeper

42 mins ago - World

Sudan's military places civilian prime minister under house arrest

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok during a 2020 news conference in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Sudan's civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was put under house arrest and several other ministers were also detained Monday in what appears to be a military coup in the country, per local reports.

Why it matters: The arrests of the civilian faction in the Sudanese government came a day after U.S. envoy Jeffrey Feltman met with the head of the military faction of the Sudanese government General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and warned him against staging a coup.

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest — triggering widespread power outages and flooding.

Why it matters: The strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Saudi dissident claims MBS said he could get "poison ring" to kill king

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the Saudi Green Initiative Forum, via video link, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Saturday. Photo: Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A former senior Saudi intelligence official who worked with the U.S. on counterterrorism alleged to "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed in 2014 killing the kingdom's then-monarch.

Why it matters: The claim by the exiled Saad al-Jabri, whom Saudi authorities describe as "a discredited former government official," that the crown prince, known as "MBS," allegedly said he could obtain a "ring from Russia" to carry out the attack, is one of several serious but unproven allegations he made on the CBS show.