Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Growing up in the '50s, I remember reading about the great promise of atomic energy. Nuclear reactors, we were told, would produce so much energy so efficiently that electricity would essentially be free--"too cheap to meter," as Lewis Strauss, Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, said in 1954.

As we know, reality didn't turn out to be quite so rosy. Between cost overruns and delays, opposition supercharged by the 1979 Three Mile Island meltdown, reliability issues, and the still-unsolved problem of what to do with nuclear waste, nuclear power came to be seen as far more problematic than promising. Currently, nuclear plants generate just 20 percent of all electric power in the US, and their share is gradually falling.

Solar power plant
License: CCO Public Domain

In the meantime, clean, renewable sources of energy--especially wind and solar--have been burgeoning. With renewables surging and nuclear flagging, it was inevitable that renewables would eventually win out. The only question was when.

That question has now been answered. According to the US Energy Information Administration, in March and April of this year renewable energy sources produced more energy for the US than nuclear plants--21.6 vs 20.34 percent in March and 22.98 vs 19.19 percent in April.

"Renewable energy is now surpassing nuclear power, a major milestone in the transformation of the US energy sector," says Tim Judson, Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.

And with solar energy growing by 38 percent and wind energy by 14 percent in the last year alone, this extremely positive trend has nowhere to go but up. I, for one, will be delighted when the only signs of out nuclear power misadventure are the silent silos of decommissioned plants.

Signpost memorializing the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island
Credit: The Baltimore Sun
With the cancellation of two planned reactors in South Carolina, just two new nuclear power plants are in the works in the US.  Nuclear energy can no longer compete with wind and solar. The end is in sight.

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