Sep 4, 2018

Study: Nuclear revival necessary for cutting global carbon emissions

A nuclear power plant in Gundremmingen, Germany. Photo: Stefan Puchner/picture alliance via Getty Images

Steeply cutting global carbon emissions will be tougher without expanding nuclear power, but its future is dim absent project cost reductions and supportive policies, a new MIT study concludes.

Why it matters: Nuclear energy faces very limited long-term prospects in the U.S. and a number of other countries, thanks in part to huge upfront costs to build new plants.

  • But some analysts argue nuclear is among the technologies needed to help achieve steep mid-century emissions cuts that are consistent with limiting long-term temperature rise.

The big picture: The report notes that today nuclear power represents a "meager" 5% of total global energy production and 11% of worldwide electricity.

  • The International Energy Agency's "sustainable development scenario" — a hypothetical future consistent with the temperature goals of the Paris agreement — envisions a substantial increase in nuclear generation by 2040.

What's next: It recommends a suite of steps to rein in project costs for new reactors, such completing more detailed design work before construction starts.

  • In addition, "deployment of multiple, standardized units, especially at a single site, affords considerable learning from the construction of each unit."

Another big takeaway is pricing carbon emissions would "equitably recognize the value to all climate-friendly energy technologies" — and nuclear would benefit.

The bottom line: "Other generation technologies have become cheaper in recent decades, while new nuclear plants have only become costlier," the report states.

  • "This disturbing trend undermines nuclear energy’s potential contribution and increases the cost of achieving deep decarbonization."

Go deeper: MIT Technology Review breaks down the report here. And I recently wrote about a Carnegie Mellon University study that draws pessimistic conclusions about nuclear's future.

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Situational awareness

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

  1. Warren supporters form super PAC
  2. We may be on "the brink" of a global coronavirus pandemic
  3. Pentagon policy chief resigns amid reported discord with Trump
  4. National polls show Bernie in control ahead of Nevada
  5. How a Chinese think tank rates all 50 U.S. governors

Sign of the times: A pro-Warren super PAC

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a rally in Nevada. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A group of women progressives who back Sen. Elizabeth Warren has formed Persist PAC, a super PAC airing pro-Warren ads starting Wednesday in an effort to boost her performance ahead of Saturday's crucial Nevada caucuses, a spokesman told Axios.

Why it matters: Warren has spoken adamantly against the influence of unlimited spending and dark money in politics. But these supporters have concluded that before Warren can reform the system, she must win under the rules that exist — and that whether she likes it or not, their uncoordinated help may be needed to keep her viable through this weekend's contest and into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Pentagon policy chief resigns amid reported discord with Trump

John Rood. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

John Rood, the Pentagon's top policy official, will resign from his post on Feb. 28, CNN first reported and President Trump confirmed.

The state of play: CNN said Rood "was perceived as not embracing some of the changes in policy the White House and senior Pentagon officials wanted," such as peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban and a decision to cut back on military exercises with South Korea as the president courted North Korea's Kim Jong-un.