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US Climate Advisor sees ‘essential’ need to retain nuclear units

The USA will need its existing nuclear power plants to help meet the Biden Administration’s net zero by 2035 pledge, White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said yesterday during a webinar held by Columbia University Centre on Global Energy Policy. Last month, President Joe Biden announced a target to cut US emissions by 50%-52% from 2005 levels by 2030.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told the House Appropriations subcommittee on 6 May that she was open to the idea of subsidies for nuclear plants. Asked about this topic, McCarthy said: “In many areas, continuation of the existing nuclear, as long as it’s environmentally sound and it’s permitted, is going to be absolutely essential because we need the time to actually find a way to get renewable energy [to be] a bigger part of the [energy] mix.”

Nuclear power provides “a very stable baseload system”, she said.

“It’s going to be essential that we continue with that while we build out our transmission system and look for other opportunities. Now, I don’t expect those old ones to be around a long time, but I do expect them to be safe, and I expect them to continue in a way that’s going to allow us to keep the greenhouse gas emissions down with really stable baseload capacity.

“The one thing that we’re not going to give up or keep our eye off of is the resilience we need in the system, the certainty that we need in the system and the affordability So we have to make sure that those baseload [plants] are covered and certainly nuclear, and other facilities and ways of generating electricity, are going to be important to continue with. So we’re not going to look at this naively and start saying, ‘Let’s shut stuff down’ and shift over; we’re going to do it in a deliberate but expedited way.”

The USA has the world’s biggest reactor fleet – 93 nuclear power units – but on 30 April, Entergy Corporation’s Indian Point unit 3, in New York State, became the latest US nuclear reactor to be shut down prematurely owing in large part to sustained low current and projected wholesale energy prices.

McCarthy served as the 13th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2013 to 2017. In early 2020, she became president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

A recording of the webinar is here.

Source: World Nuclear News