- Texas man arrested for powder-letter hoax
- Islamic State opens ‘marriage bureau’ for single jihadists
- Drone almost blocks California firefighting planes
- Tornado rips off roofs, downs trees near Boston
- GOP: Environmental rules keeping agents from accessing border
- John Kerry: Millions displaced by religious fighting in 2013
- Federal appeals court rules against Virginia’s gay marriage ban
- White House says Russia ‘losing’ war in Ukraine
- Hamas turns to North Korea for weapons deal, Iran for money
- Syrian casualties surge as jihadis consolidate
Once-powerful nuclear industry starts to sputter out
Question of the Day
The closing of Vermont’s only nuclear power plant is the latest challenge to an industry struggling to retain its niche in America’s long-term energy future.
Several factors have combined to create what some see as a bleak future for the sector.
“This is not an isolated incident,” said Frank Felder, director of the Center for Energy, Economic and Environmental Policy at Rutgers University. “Electricity prices are low. The costs of running the plants are high.”
Much like coal, nuclear power — once heralded as the future of U.S. energy and still touted by President Obama as part of his “all of the above” strategy to reduce dependence on foreign fuel — now is fighting to compete with natural gas prices near record lows.
The rise of hydraulic fracturing, a process commonly known as fracking, has revitalized American natural gas production. The dramatic rise in supply has pushed down prices in recent years and made gas increasingly appealing from a cost perspective.
The uptick in drilling has coincided with a drop in overall demand for electricity, analysts say, a one-two punch that may begin to elbow nuclear out of the mix.
Meanwhile, events such as the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi facility have renewed questions about the overall safety of nuclear power and led some nations, such as Germany, to begin transitioning away from nuclear energy.
But with the Obama administration bent on reducing U.S. carbon emissions, nuclear power would seem on the surface to be a worthwhile investment. In terms of carbon emissions, nuclear plants are cleaner than natural gas facilities and are much more “green” than their coal counterparts.
Despite that, the bulk of federal clean-energy investments continue to flow to solar, wind, biofuels and other alternatives.
“Nuclear is not as sexy,” said Eileen Supko, principal at Energy Resources International Inc., a leading energy consulting company.
In fact, many of those advocating a transition to a low- or no-carbon future see a diminished — or nonexistent — role for nuclear power generation.
“This is the right decision for Vermont as we move to a greener energy future. Entergy’s announcement today confirms what we have known for some time. Operating and maintaining this aging nuclear facility is too expensive in today’s world,” Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, said after Entergy announced the Vermont Yankee closure last week. “Vermont has made clear its desire to move toward more sustainable, renewable sources of electricity, and many of our surrounding states are doing likewise.”
In explaining its decision, Entergy cited a “natural gas market that has undergone a transformational shift in supply due to the impacts of shale gas.”
The company also pointed to the high costs of maintaining the single-reactor Vermont Yankee facility, having spent more than $400 million on the plant in the past decade.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ben Wolfgang covers the White House for The Washington Times.
Before joining the Times in March 2011, Ben spent four years as a political reporter at the Republican-Herald in Pottsville, Pa.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In politics, all states are 'border' states
- Russia in violation of 1987 missile treaty, White House says
- Libya now nation at risk with weak U.S. influence; embassy closes as chaos grows
- White House adviser on 2016: Rand Paul more viable than Ted Cruz
- White House readies for House GOP impeachment push: 'Foolish' to ignore
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By David Keene
Allowing states to innovate could reduce dependency on bureaucracy
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- Iraqi Christians rally at White House: 'Obama, Obama, where are you?'
- Tennessee Gov. Haslam slams White House for secret dump of illegals in his state
- White House defends Kerry failure to broker Middle East cease-fire
- Border surge puts Obama legacy on immigration at stake
- Report: 40% of weapons sent to Afghanistan are unaccounted for
- Babson College, BYU win top spots in Money magazine's college rankings
- White House says Russia 'losing' war in Ukraine
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq