EPA’s Clean Power Plan casts uncertainty over nuclear power

The future of nuclear power remains unclear since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it would only credit 6 percent of nuclear power output to a state's carbon emissions improvements as part of its Clean Power Plan.

“The question remains as to whether nuclear will even be considered in the overall Clean Power Plan as a way to address some of EPA’s proposed building blocks,” Mark Gake, chief engineer for Nuclear Projects at Black & Veatch, said at the recent Greenhouse Gas Strategic Forum in Kansas City, Missouri. “So whether we get a resolution of that will dictate to a large extent what nuclear’s role will be in the future."

Gina McCarthy, administrator at the EPA, has acknowledged that the agency may reconsider how the plan addresses nuclear power after receiving millions of comments about the proposal. 

While nuclear power plants around the nation are economically challenged, Gake said extending nuclear energy capacity is possible at many plants.

“If utilities can increase existing nuclear capacity or install new nuclear capacity, we can still make an impact to the overall (green house gas) emission in the U.S.,” he said. “Nuclear energy clearly could play a large role, but we still need clarity in the plan.”

The proposed Clean Power Plan is expected to be in effect by 2030.

“The bottom line is fossil fuels will not last forever,” Gake said. “Nuclear can play a long-term role for greenhouse gas-free electricity.”

Organizations in this story

Black and Veatch 11401 Lamar Ave Overland Park, KS 66211

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20460

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