Net Zero Needs Nuclear

“Rather quietly, a new age of atomic energy may be approaching. Splitting atoms may not be as exciting as fusing them, or as modish as wind and solar projects. Yet old-fashioned fission is poised to make a comeback thanks to innovative new reactor designs. The world will be better for this revolution — if policymakers allow it.”

So begins an online article in the Washington Post with the unflinching title “Net Zero Isn’t Possible Without Nuclear.”  This piece is described as “Analysis by The Editors | Bloomberg.”

[Aside: This is an amazing piece of writing—which we entirely agree with and truly admire—but it is all highly unusual. Newspapers typically do not publish “analysis.” Also, newspapers typically will not publish opinion pieces from “The Editors” of other organizations. Yet, here it is, Bloomberg Editors (might that include Michael Bloomberg?) have effectively placed an OpEd in the WaPo on the last business day of the year that is, we suspect, going to serve as the exclamation mark for the year. End aside.]

This piece packs a punch. It’s not too long. It’s not too technical. It just makes the case that we need tons more nuclear energy if we hope to reduce emissions and yet our progress in that direction is blocked by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission that is effectively disfunctional and unable to understand relative risks.

Sadly, we agree. The NRC as it is now, is not well-suited for supporting the success of an innovative nuclear tech sector. Today’s NRC could remain the regulator for the traditional industry, which is used to slow and plodding and isn’t building all that much. But what the Advanced Nuclear sector needs is a new, more innovative regulatory body which operates at the pace of technology and which can be empowered to use different methods and objectives to provide suitable guidelines and support for innovators but which doesn’t stop them from innovating and commercializing good designs, simply because those designs haven’t been tested for decades. This group should be empowered to use probabilistic risk assessments, advanced technologies, modeling and even AI to help launch the advanced nuclear sector and ensure that we get the commercial reactor designs we need to prevent climate change from destroying humanity. 

The NRC, as it exists now, does not recognize that climate change is barreling down on the world with an absolute certainty, if we don’t eliminate emissions. For the sake of zeroing out risks so miniscule that they don’t pose a realistic threat, the NRC is standing in the way of important, planet-saving climate solutions.

Read more at the Washington Post,  “Net Zero Isn’t Possible Without Nuclear,” by The Editors, Bloomberg, December 30, 2022.