The 2019 ELI-Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum
Historic accidents such as Fukushima, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl have led to nuclear energy’s reputation as a significant environmental worry, mainly due to fears of potential contamination from a nuclear incident or improper disposal of radioactive waste. However, today the European Union depends on nuclear power for more than 25% of its electricity, and in the United States, nuclear-generated electricity protects the atmosphere from more than 528 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.
As climate concerns increase, many countries and businesses are reassessing the role of nuclear power in a climate sensitive future. Questions are emerging around scheduling retirement of nuclear plants, even as barriers remain, including compliance with state and federal law, mitigating public concerns surrounding risks, and steep financial burdens such as building and operational costs. Some favor financial incentives for new nuclear capacity or perpetuating existing plants, while others note the risks, including infrastructure integrity of reactors, storage and disposal capacity, and potential environmental and health contamination risks.
What does the future of nuclear energy look like in this evolving landscape? How do the environmental challenges of nuclear energy stack up against the possible advantages from the vantage point of climate change, whether those be decommissioning reactors, disposing of nuclear waste, storage issues or others? Should nuclear energy be seen as a bridge fuel while other renewables scale up to meet energy demands, or even as a fixed piece in a U.S. lower carbon energy mix? Panelists discussed these questions and tackled the complex history, the multifaceted regulations, and the future of nuclear energy development.
Opening Remarks: Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
John C. Dernbach, Director, Environmental Law and Sustainability Center and Commonwealth Professor of Environmental Law and Sustainability, Widener University Commonwealth Law School and Author and Editor, Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States
W. Mason Emnett, Vice President, Competitive Market Policy, Exelon Corporation
Sandra Levine, Senior Attorney, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF)
Granta Nakayama, S.B., S.M, Partner, King & Spalding LLP
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