“Once seen as an energy option on its last legs, the nuclear industry has had several victories lately. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill intended to keep the Diablo Canyon plant running past its expected retirement date, and Germany plans to keep two aging nuclear plants available until at least April.
The energy security arguments for those plants in some ways mirror those of the 1970s, which led to a huge nuclear build-out. Then, it was skyrocketing gasoline prices and anti-market actions from Middle Eastern oil exporters creating energy insecurity. Today, similar factors are at play, with Russia now causing supply concerns and natural gas prices spiking. There’s also the ticking tock of climate change making zero-carbon nuclear particularly attractive in a world racing to cut emissions.
Supporters say there’s enough momentum for a nuclear renaissance that would catapult the industry into a greater role in the world’s clean energy future. Newsom backed an effort to keep the Diablo Canyon plant open until 2030, for example, as climate-linked wildfires and heat waves showed it would be tough for California to lose a big zero-carbon power source in the coming years as it strives to slash emissions.
But the nuclear industry has long voiced concerns over what it sees as hesitancy and unfair treatment in the world of climate finance and ESG, the movement to include environmental, social and governance issues in investing principles.
“Nuclear should be getting credit for ESG, and I’d like to tell you that it’s that simple, but it’s not,” said Maria Korsnick, CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute industry group, during an NEI event in June. “There’s some financial institutions that look at nuclear and look at ESG, and they struggle to say that nuclear actually supports it.”