NARUC white paper examines nuclear’s role in advancing decarbonization

August 31, 2022, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) has published Nuclear Energy as a Keystone Clean Energy Resource, a white paper that examines the role of nuclear power in providing carbon-free energy in the United States. The 57-page paper, prepared by Energy Ventures Analysis, includes a review of considerations for regulators to boost nuclear power’s contribution to the decarbonization energy transition.

A key point made in the paper is that reaching ambitious state and national decarbonization goals will require expansion of the nuclear energy resource base. Despite this, a number of barriers stand in the way of nuclear fleet expansion. Moreover, existing nuclear power plants must continue to deal with challenges, such as those from economic pressures, planned reactor retirements, regulatory issues, and competition with other energy industries.

Breaking down barriers: The white paper offers suggestions on ways in which federal, state, and local officials—including public utility commissioners—can address barriers and challenges facing the nuclear industry. As energy generation increasingly shifts from fossil fuels to renewables, said barriers must be reduced so clean energy goals can be reached without decreasing grid reliability and public access to electricity. Confronting these issues is especially important with the expected upcoming deployment of several advanced nuclear reactors.

A framework for moving forward: According to Kathryn Huff, assistant secretary for nuclear energy in the Department of Energy, the paper “provides a framework for decision makers to start those conversations.” As the paper’s executive summary notes, “Going forward, establishing a more favorable financial and regulatory environment will allow nuclear energy to remain a keystone clean energy resource in a decarbonized U.S. electric grid.”

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