Texas is facing an energy crisis. Our energy grid has become vulnerable during a scorching summer, yet again leaving Texans to call for more efficient energy alternatives to prevent future blackouts. After disruptions in electricity and natural gas service led to several hundred deaths during Winter Storm Uri, Texans are sounding the alarm.
The latest test against the state’s power grid operator, ERCOT, is another justification to streamline Texas’ energy system. Texas needs to rise to the challenge of a modernized energy grid, and that means prioritizing nuclear energy.
Nuclear power has proven to be one of the most efficient energy sources in the industry with a higher energy return on investment than any other power source. Not to mention, nuclear energy’s capacity factor in the U.S. is considerably more reliable than natural gas units, and nuclear power plants require less maintenance and are able to operate for up to 80 years.
As nuclear plants use water during production, most Texas plants have reservoirs on-site and discharge the water back to the source. However, in preparation for a drought, nuclear plants “carry off their month-long refueling and maintenance activity in the spring and fall, when electricity demand is low. Thus, when peak demand hits in the summer and winter, they are ready to reliably produce vital power.”
Unfortunately, nuclear fear has risen above the reality of how safe and effective the energy source really is. Compared to other energy sources, nuclear plants present one of the lowest cancer risks, and at a time when retiring nuclear reactors continue to be replaced by carbon-emitting sources like natural gas and coal, it’s important to note nuclear power is a safe energy alternative.
While concerns over waste production and storage often arise when discussing nuclear energy, nuclear power produces mostly low-level waste, and recent developments promote safe and efficient nuclear waste disposal. From using the high-level fuel to build next-generation fast neutron reactors to a new technology that reduces radiotoxicity through lasers, nuclear energy has a bright future ahead.
Germany was the first major economy to make a “big shift in its energy mix toward low-carbon sources.” The country has already experimented with shuttering nuclear power plants and instead over-compensated by doubling down on renewables — and it went horribly. Estimations show that, by 2025, Germany will have spent $580 billion in their transition and will have made its country’s electricity “almost twice as expensive and ten times more carbon-intensive than that of France.” Let’s learn from Germany’s mistakes.
Time and time again, our elected leaders have beat against the same drum: climate change is destroying our environment. Yet, the same lawmakers continue to unfairly allocate more resources for solar and other renewable energy sources. An analysis of U.S. government energy expenditures from 1950 to 2016 found a major discrepancy in leveling the playing field for various energy sectors. Solar and wind received $158 billion, or 16%, of federal energy subsidies largely through tax credits, whereas the nuclear industry received less than half of that for research and development purposes.
With nuclear plants closing at a steady rate, we need more leaders like U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston), who has voiced support for prioritizing nuclear energy in his district and for Texas. Nuclear energy is a proven product that must be reconsidered before maintaining the same unproductive course.