Sep 28, 2018

Nuclear energy has a rocky path ahead

The Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant in Florida, 2017. Photo: Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images

Three developments this week together tell a story of the present and future of U.S. nuclear power.

Driving the news: A federal appellate court yesterday upheld New York's zero emissions credits (ZEC) program that subsidizes nuclear plants.

  • The unanimous decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said the program is not preempted by federal electricity law.
  • It's the second appellate decision this month upholding states' authority to subsidize nuclear plants, following the Sept. 13 Seventh Circuit ruling in favor of Illinois' ZEC program.

Why it matters: The decisions bolster efforts in several states to prop up nuclear plants facing severe market pressures.

  • They're a win for advocates who fear that a wave of plant closures will be a huge step backward for the decarbonization the country's power mix.
  • And environmentalists also welcome them as a blessing for states' powers to bolster renewables.

The big picture: The New York decision arrived a day after owners of a badly over-budget project to build two big reactors in Georgia struck an 11th-hour deal to keep construction going.

  • However, that action was at most a limited win for the troubled nuclear industry.
  • The Southern Company-led project is the only new commercial nuclear plant under construction in the U.S., and there aren't others on the horizon.

What's next: A new report says the path forward for new U.S. nuclear development lies with development and commercial deployment of small "microreactors" under 10 megawatts.

  • The report from The Breakthrough Institute, the R Street Institute and the ClearPath Foundation says this "can leverage America’s comparative advantage: our unrivaled innovation system and entrepreneurial business culture."
  • It calls for policy changes and support, including several contained in bipartisan legislation before Congress, to help develop and license these projects.

Go deeper

Trump attacks Schumer for impeachment in letter about coronavirus crisis

President Trump briefs reports on April 2. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump accused Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of being "missing in action" during the coronavirus crisis, writing in a scathing letter on Thursday that Schumer's focus on the "ridiculous impeachment hoax" resulted in New York being ill-prepared for the pandemic.

Why it matters: It's a blistering response to Schumer urging Trump to assign a senior military officer to enforce the Defense Production Act to produce more medical supplies.

World coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases top 1 million

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Novel coronavirus infections have hit the 1 million mark after "near exponential growth" that's reached "almost every country," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

The big picture: The global death toll exceeded 50,000 on Thursday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported nearly 14,000 deaths. Governments around the world have introduced public health and economic measures to try and curb the impact of the virus.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 35 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 1,007,997 — Total deaths: 52,771 — Total recoveries: 210,055Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 236,339 — Total deaths: 5,648 — Total recoveries: 8,861Map.
  3. 2020 update: The Democratic National Committee said its July convention will be postponed until August because of the coronavirus.
  4. Jobs latest: The coronavirus unemployment numbers are like a natural disaster hitting every state
  5. Public health latest: FDA allows blood donations from gay men after 3-month waiting period, citing "urgent need."
  6. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Navy removes captain of aircraft carrier who sounded alarm about coronavirus.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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