Nuclear is the largest source of clean energy in the USA, and the nation's nuclear plants are working more efficiently than ever, Korsnick said, adding they are "economic engines" for the communities they serve. In addition to new projects, such as the Vogtle units under construction in Georgia, she highlighted the application of developments such as digital technology, 3D printers, big-data analytics, and artificial intelligence to upgrade existing plants for extended operation.
The number of respondents who say they support or oppose the use of nuclear power is split evenly, with both those who approve and those who disapprove coming in at 49 percent, according to Gallup. A slightly lower percentage of Americans, 47 percent, are willing to say that nuclear power plants are "safe" choices for energy.
The U.S. nuclear industry is on life support. Two nuclear reactors currently under construction have been canceled. Westinghouse, once at the vanguard of American technology, filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and is now owned by a Canadian firm. These troubles have affected the human capital—technicians, engineers, and other specialists--crucial for innovation in the industry.
Addressing the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on prospects for global energy markets, Birol said the USA had been a leader in nuclear power technology for 60 years alongside France, Japan and Russia, but was set to be overtaken by China unless US policies change. Birol has testified in front of the committee for the last three years.
Most of the reactors operating around the world--including the ones at Fukushima and almost all of the 100 or so plants operating in the U.S.--were built from designs drafted during the slide-rule era and adapted from reactors used on aircraft carriers and submarines.
Though economics might not favor nuclear power in the US, policy makers do. Last week, the House passed a bipartisan bill that originated in the Senate called the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (S. 97), which will allow the private sector to partner with US National Laboratories to vet advanced nuclear technologies. The bill also directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to lay the ground work for establishing "a versatile, reactor-based fast neutron source."
America's oldest nuclear power plant will shut down on Sept. 17, but the Oyster Creek plant near the New Jersey shore will stay right where it is for the next 60 years.
The U.S. has the largest stockpile of nuclear arms in the world. But on nuclear energy, it's all but out of the race. Of more than 50 new nuclear reactors being built around the world, just six are being constructed by a U.S. firm, according to data compiled by the World Nuclear Association.
In 2009 the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and the Breakthrough Institute collaborated to complete the report, Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant, which benchmarked the clean energy competitiveness of China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States in order to emphasize the importance of innovation as a driver of economic competitiveness.