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Is The Trump Presidency A Boon For Nuclear Power?

Nuclear reactor

By now, the shock from Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election should be starting to subside, but this is hardly the case with worries over America’s course to a greener, more renewable-energy future. In fact, these worries have spiked in recent days, as the President-elect reaffirmed his commitment to the fossil fuel industry and his intention to pull the country out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

How legitimate these worries are, however, remains to be seen.

Here’s the latest from the Marrakesh climate talks, courtesy of the AP. The EU is making unveiled hints that it would be smart for Trump to stay in the agreement, with Slovakian Environment Minister Laszlo Solymos quoted as saying that “it's not easy to jump off a fast-moving train. If someone wants to deviate, it won't be easy.”

China has also shown some optimism that Trump will tone down his anti-climate change rhetoric and stop short of taking radical action, with one Marrakesh delegate saying “We hope that the U.S. will continue to play a role in the climate change process.”

So far so good; everyone’s cautiously optimistic. But let’s say that Trump does stay true to his word and pulls out of the Paris Agreement, and goes ahead with scrapping subsidies for green power, and cozies up to Big Oil and Coal even more. The pressure for clean energy is unlikely to decline, at which point observers have to ask an important question - then what?

According to one nuclear power expert, one alternative is nuclear power. In a detailed proposal published on Atomic Insights, Rod Adams argues that nuclear should receive some special attention from the President-elect.

Related: Saudi Arabia Issues Warning To Trump: Don’t Stop Saudi Oil Imports

Nuclear, says Adams, is “the mother lode of untapped potential”, referring to Trump’s statement during his victory speech in which he said he spent his life looking at untapped potential. To tap this potential, the new president should simply encourage the nuclear industry by improving regulations and boosting the effectiveness of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

From Adams’ perspective, nuclear can compete effectively with oil and gas, and with solar and wind power, if all are put on an equal footing, which is not the case at the moment. All it needs is the government to stop putting obstacles in its way. In fact, says Adams, the nuclear power industry won’t even need much in the way of funding as growing demand for cheap, clean energy will pay the bills.

Not everyone in the nuclear field is so optimistic, however. According to energy writer Dennis Wamsted, Trump’s presidency could actually spell the demise of the U.S. nuclear industry. Many existing nuclear power plants, he notes, need subsidies for their survival in an environment dominated by oil, gas, and renewables.

Related: The U.S. Just Became A Net Exporter Of Natural Gas

The only two arguments in defense of nuclear power are that it’s relatively cheap, and that it’s much cleaner than fossil fuels. Clean power does not appear to be on the top of Trump’s agenda, or so we’re led to believe by his remarks that climate change is a hoax. But as a business man who “makes good deals”, low-cost power could indeed turn his attention to nuclear.

Even if it does, though, there will be a public outcry—that’s a certainty. Anti-nuclear sentiments are not as rife as they were in 2011 after the Fukushima disaster, but the anti-nuclear lobby is still strong. Yet, Trump is all about job creation, and new NPP construction and operation will create jobs. It looks like “Trump and nuclear power” is one more important point on the agenda that we’ll need to keep tabs on.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Bill Simpson on November 18 2016 said:
    Building nuclear power plants would create thousands of high paying construction jobs. And as electric cars come to dominate in the future, the demand for electricity will explode. All the energy now supplied by burning millions of gallons of gasoline every day, will have to come from electricity charging batteries at night. That is a LOT of electrical energy that will have to come from somewhere. The sun doesn't shine half the day, and batteries are an expensive hassle. Canada and Australia have massive supplies of uranium. Those are the kind of people Trump's friends seem to like to trade with - English speakers. And why waste fossil fuels, which are finite and can be used in making thousands of products, when you can use uranium which is only good for power and nuclear bombs?
  • David Wilson on November 19 2016 said:
    Nuclear is not cheap, but actually far more expensive than almost any other current energy source. It is only cheap when subsidized massively by taxpayers, as well as (most importantly), by future generations who will have to pay trillions to decommission old reactors. This is to say nothing of the fact that governments essentially indemnify nuclear power providers for nuclear accidents - again, the taxpayer is on the hook. Another excellent way to privatize profits and socialize costs.
  • Karl Marx on December 07 2016 said:
    Molten-salt reactors (MSR) are the future, and probably the best shot that we have at not being cooked by global warming. China is already making two MSR, and their safer, easier to build, much less expenseve, and produces a lot more power than conventional reactors (http://fortune.com/2015/02/02/doe-china-molten-salt-nuclear-reactor/). Also, lol socializing costs is almost definitely the only way to make this work, and also the profits of this is literally everyone on the planet not dying, so how less privatized could the profits possibly get?

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