Gongol.com Archives: May 2024

Brian Gongol

May 30, 2024

Science and Technology More power to the people

In 2023, about one out of every five watts of electricity generated in the United States came from nuclear power generation. On the whole, that's a good thing: Nuclear fission power is, for now at least, the only tool we have for baseline electric generation that doesn't burn a fossil fuel. Natural gas makes up 43% of the generation mix, and coal continues its decline, down now to about 16%. ■ Renewables are on the ascent, of course, accelerated by developments like the rather stunning decline in the cost of photovoltaic power. But they, like nature, remain inconsistent and until we get the problem of truly massive storage figured out, some kind of weather-independent generation is necessary to achieve a blend that meets demand. Meeting 100% of net demand with renewable generation is possible (it's already been done in Iowa), but on-demand generation remains a necessity. ■ This is why plans to support nuclear-plant development are worthy of attention. New nuclear plants are a colossal rarity in America: New reactors recently brought online in Georgia took years of construction time and billions of dollars more than anticipated, and those were the first new ones in almost a decade. ■ We aren't about to turn into the Springfield of "Simpsons" myth, with its unflattering nuclear plant. But getting closer to a reliable, modular, budget-friendly, and perhaps even community-scale nuclear generators would be a big win for society as we continue to steer aggressively towards a de-carbonized future.

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