Nuclear energy is one dispatchable low-carbon option that past experience shows can be expanded quickly. For example, France rapidly expanded its use of nuclear energy in the 1970s and 1980s which largely decarbonized its power sector. China now has a similarly large expansion of its reactor program underway as part of efforts to meet its 2060 net zero target. Globally, the International Energy Agency projects that nuclear energy might double as part of its Net Zero by 2050 study.
Despite its potentially critical role in meeting energy needs and addressing climate change, the U.S. nuclear industry is facing substantial headwinds. The industry’s progress has been stymied in particular by concerns over cost overruns, lack of progress on nuclear waste management, reactor safety, and other issues – all contributing to lower public support. New reactors – both fission-based and fusion-based – also face uncertain regulatory treatment from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
The nuclear program at the Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) will focus on five major thrusts to address the challenges facing nuclear energy: Communications and education, NRC regulation, reactors, fuel cycle, and international engagement.