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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

White House: Over 110 million COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped, donated

Photo: Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The U.S. has shipped and donated more than 110 million coronavirus vaccine doses to over 60 countries, the White House said Friday.

Why it matters: It is more than the combined donations of all other countries, the White House said, citing the United Nations. Biden had pledged to donate at least 80 million vaccines by the end of June.

Why companies aren't paying more

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If companies raised pay high enough, then maybe they wouldn’t complain about labor shortages that have forced them to forgo sales. But there seems to be a limit to how much a company is willing to pay, despite what seems like a clear opportunity to maximize the top line.

Why it matters: Companies have been scrambling to staff up amid a rapid economic recovery. Employers across industries have been raising wages in their efforts to be competitive.

Business travel might be going out of style

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies have made it a year and a half mostly without traveling for work — and now more and more of them are considering dramatically reducing business travel to slash costs and cut carbon emissions.

Why it matters: Business travel is a massive part of the global economy — with trillions of dollars and millions of jobs at airlines, hotels and travel agencies hinging on its return.