Sign In or Create an Account.

By continuing, you agree to the Terms of Service and acknowledge our Privacy Policy

Podcast

America’s Nuclear Policy Is Getting … Pretty Good!

Inside episode 21 of Shift Key.

Nuclear power.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Congress just passed perhaps its biggest support for zero-carbon energy since the Inflation Reduction Act. The ADVANCE Act, which the Senate adopted overwhelmingly last week, aims to keep America at the cutting edge of the global nuclear industry by cutting regulatory fees, making it easier for U.S. companies to build nuclear power plants abroad, and reforming the agency that oversees it all, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

On this week’s episode of Shift Key, Rob and Jesse talk with Ryan Norman, a senior policy advisor at Third Way’s climate and energy program, about how America got here. We talk about why nuclear is such a bipartisan issue, what the ADVANCE Act will actually do, and how soon new nuclear power plants could actually get built. Shift Key is hosted by Robinson Meyer, the founding executive editor of Heatmap, and Jesse Jenkins, a professor of energy systems engineering at Princeton University.

Subscribe to “Shift Key” and find this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, or wherever you get your podcasts.

You can also add the show’s RSS feed to your podcast app to follow us directly.

Here is an excerpt from our conversation:

Ryan Norman: The U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has a very well-regarded reputation, around the world partially because of the way it thinks about layers of different issues.

Stepping back for a brief second, when we talk about these relationships with other countries — I had mentioned that it’s an interagency option, but it’s also much deeper than financial. There’s a market piece, but there’s also a long-term relationship that you end up building with the country because your regulators understand each other. You’ve built a relationship with the international regulators and the monitoring agencies. You’re more or less introduced into that relationship by your partner, so by the U.S,. or by the French, or the Koreans, or whoever it is. So there’s a long-term relationship of trust that needs to be built there between those two poles.

So it’s really important that you work with a country that has experience mitigating some of these social issues and working that into the process effectively. Because when those disputes happen in a partner country, they want to be able to replicate the discourse process of transparency and all the different things that the NRC does.

When you think about how that translates to some of our competitors, countries like Russia and China, the dynamic of those countries’ regulators in the industry is very opaque. It’s much closer to the way the NRC’s precursor, the Atomic Energy Commission, used to operate in the United States, right? There’s just a lot of issues that those industries in Russia and China aren’t concerned with. Practically speaking, there’s no such thing as environmental or energy justice in China, right? Like there’s no community benefits plan process that they have to go through to build a new reactor. They have a lot of space. The density is very different. The authority and the permitting process is so different that they basically just make a decision and that’s how it goes.

So then that means that when you’re basing — when a country, you know, like a partner like Ghana, for example, is trying to base, okay, how do I want my regulator to look? Well, if I take the structure they have in another country that is not used to incorporating social engagement and understanding around some of these issues, and really mitigating social backlash, you’re really just replicating a system that is not going to be as equitable as what you could do if you were a partner with the U.S. So it’s another reason that U.S. leadership is really an imperative.

Robinson Meyer: And this is what makes nuclear reactors so different from solar, or onshore wind, or really any kind of wind or other kinds of energy technologies, I suppose, is that you’re signing up … You alluded to, like, a 50-year agreement, basically, between two countries, and you’re pledging a very long-term integration between those two regulatory states. In between, for lack of better term, energy-planning elites in those two countries.

Norman: Yeah, they call it the 100-year relationship, and that’s a long time. But it’s super real, and it’s super important because there’s a lot of influence that comes with being an energy partner, and you have the ability and I would say even the responsibility to guide that energy partner to do things responsibly and do things equitably. And I think that if we want a clean energy future that is abundant but also just, we can’t just defer leadership in these spaces to folks who are not focused on these principles.

This episode of Shift Key is sponsored by …

Watershed’s climate data engine helps companies measure and reduce their emissions, turning the data they already have into an audit-ready carbon footprint backed by the latest climate science. Get the sustainability data you need in weeks, not months. Learn more at watershed.com.

As a global leader in PV and ESS solutions, Sungrow invests heavily in research and development, constantly pushing the boundaries of solar and battery inverter technology. Discover why Sungrow is the essential component of the clean energy transition by visiting sungrowpower.com.

Music for Shift Key is by Adam Kromelow.

Yellow
Robinson Meyer profile image

Robinson Meyer

Robinson is the founding executive editor of Heatmap. He was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covered climate change, energy, and technology.

Jesse D. Jenkins profile image

Jesse D. Jenkins

Jesse D. Jenkins is an assistant professor and expert in energy systems engineering and policy at Princeton University where he leads the REPEAT Project, which provides regular, timely environmental and economic evaluation of federal energy and climate policies as they’re proposed and enacted.

Technology

Florida’s Climate Tech Hub Has a Florida Problem

One of the most vulnerable states in the U.S. wants nothing to do with “climate change.”

A Florida postcard.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The Biden administration loves a hub. There are the hydrogen hubs, the direct air capture hubs, and now there are the tech hubs. Established as a part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, the $10 billion program has so far seeded 12 such hubs across the country. Four of these are focused on clean energy and sustainability, and one is located in the great state of Florida, which recently passed legislation essentially deleting the words “climate change” from state law.

The South Florida ClimateReady Tech Hub did not, in the end, eliminate climate from its name. But while Governor Ron DeSantis might not approve, the federal government didn’t seem to mind, as the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded the hub $19.5 million to “advance its global leadership in sustainable and resilient infrastructure.”

Keep reading...Show less
Yellow
Climate

America Wasn’t Built for This

Why extreme heat messes with infrastructure.

Teton Pass.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

America is melting. Roads are buckling everywhere from Houston to Aurora, Colorado, and in June caused traffic jams in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Last week, a New York City bridge that had opened to let a ship pass got stuck after expanding in the heat, forcing thousands of commuters to detour. The mid-June heat wave led to thousands of flight delays; more recently, even Toronto’s Pearson International Airport warned travelers to brace for heat-related complications. Commuters along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor have been harried by heat-induced delays for weeks.

The train delays have affected an especially large population. The Northeast Corridor is the most trafficked commuter rail system in the country, with over 750,000 daily commuters. In late June, Amtrak notified customers that trains in the corridor could face delays of up to an hour in the coming weeks as heat interfered with tracks and overhead power lines. Since it issued that warning, tens of thousands of people have experienced heat-related delays.

Keep reading...Show less
Green
Climate

AM Briefing: Turbine Troubles

On broken blades, COP29, and the falling price of used electric vehicles

Vineyard Wind Is Having Turbine Troubles
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Torrential rain brought flash flooding to Toronto • A wildfire on the Hawaiian island of Kauai has been contained • Parts of southern Spain could hit 111 degrees Fahrenheit this week.

THE TOP FIVE

1. Intense heat waves and thunderstorms torment millions of Americans

The extreme heat wave over the East Coast may very well break a record in Washington, D.C., today that was set during the 1930s Dust Bowl: the longest stretch of days with temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The mercury yesterday hit 104 degrees, after similarly scorching numbers on Monday and Sunday, tying the existing record of three days. The National Weather Service forecasts a high of 98 degrees for Wednesday but The Washington Post said there’s “an outside chance that it hits 100 (or higher).” Either way, with humidity at 55%, it will feel torturously hot, with a potential heat index of 110 degrees. An “Extended Heat Emergency” is in effect in the city through today. Nearly 75 major cities across the Northeast, South, and Southwest are currently facing dangerous heat levels, according to The New York Times.

Keep reading...Show less
Yellow