Tomorrow’s options for low-carbon baseload generation.
John A. Bewick is Fortnightly’s contributing editor based in Boston. He formerly was secretary for environmental affairs for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He holds advanced degrees in nuclear science and business management.
Harvard Business School Professor Joseph B. Lassiter III puts it bluntly: "The world has allowed nuclear to become virtually an orphaned technology." And that, he adds, despite nuclear's potential to address one of the biggest problems of our time - the need for climate-friendly energy. Lassiter identifies the culprit: "Right now we're letting the ends of the ideological spectrum and the entrenched power of legacy interests stalemate a path to the future." Blocking that path, he notes, are anti-nuclear politics, regulatory policy, and utility investment strategies.
Despite these barriers, however, nuclear power is seeing some resurgence in research and development. Next-generation nuclear technologies are attracting interest from investors with a long lead-time interest in innovative clean energy approaches. The challenge of climate change likely will necessitate a new wave of nuclear plant construction in the next 20 years. Investors naturally want a piece of that.