The Hill article: The nuclear industry is stifled

October 6, 2022, 7:04AMANS Nuclear Cafe


In an opinion piece published by The Hill, Tim Cavanaugh blasts the federal government for “quick-fix” and “half-hearted” efforts to retain existing nuclear power plants.

Cavanaugh, senior editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, adds that the U.S. nuclear energy industry is stifled by outmoded policies and suggests a number of policy changes to allow it to flourish and to “end a regulatory model that has starved the nuclear industry nearly to extinction.”

Renewable failures: Cavanaugh’s first suggestion is to acknowledge the failure of renewable energy sources like wind and solar, which “produce too little energy and are too unreliable to make a dent in our heat and electricity needs, even though taxpayers have spent billions of dollars on green pork.”

Stop subsidies: His next recommendation is to end all government subsidies for energy—including nuclear. While noting the tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks and other subsidies that have been “showered” on the wind, solar, oil and natural gas, and coal industries, Cavanaugh describes nuclear’s $15 billion as “relatively modest,” but adds that “we should eliminate subsidies across the board and allow the most efficient and competitive forms of energy to rise.”

The NRC? Cavanaugh then calls for abolishing or “severely” reforming the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which he states has “stifled nearly all new nuclear capacity since it was established in 1975.” Despite agency reforms in 2005, the NRC commissioning process is still too cumbersome, he argues, and so it’s “time to change the regulatory framework for what is already the safest form of energy on the planet.”

SMRs, treaties, and shutdowns: After doing away with past and present failures, Cavanaugh’s next suggestions look forward. Investing more in small modular reactors would speed up plant construction time. It’s also high time to renegotiate regulations and treaties “that prevent us from reusing spent fuel.” His final recommendation is for state governments to follow Michigan’s lead by “not being so quick" to let nuclear operators shut down existing plants. He notes that Michigan Gov. Whitmer is petitioning energy secretary Jennifer Granholm for assistance to reopen the Palisades nuclear power plant.

Resurrection: Cavanaugh leaves readers with the blunt comment, “We have spent decades trying to murder the nuclear industry. We’ll need to do more to revive it.”

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