The controversial future of nuclear power in the U.S. by Sam

March 25, 2022


The controversial future of nuclear power in the U.S.

In this National Geographic article (published May 4, 2021), two experts on nuclear energy give their opinions on what role it will have in de-carbonizing the American energy industry.

Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, believed Nuclear Energy could contribute, as long as some big changes were made. His research found that the large, 1,000+ Megawatt reactors of today are too expensive, and “without cost reductions, nuclear energy will not play a significant role in decarbonizing the power sector.” But, the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) that produce around 300 Megawatts could allow for nuclear-produced electricity to compete with the prices of electricity produced from Fossil Fuels. 

On the other hand, Arjun Mahkijani, a nuclear physicist and head of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), doesn’t think nuclear energy is needed. Though the biggest issue with renewable energy sources is variability in energy production (nighttime for solar, calm days for wind), this problem can be fixed with battery storage. Mahkijani’s research suggests that the future exponential increase in battery storage capabilities as well as other energy-conserving incentives for consumers will be enough to transfer away from fossil fuels without the help of nuclear energy.

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