Regardless of what one thinks about climate change policy, producing more unsubsidized, affordable, clean, reliable, emissions-free power is a laudable goal. That is why, of all the recommendations that the President puts forth, increasing nuclear energy is perhaps the one thing that could actually attract bipartisan support in Washington and broad public support across the country. The problem is that he does nothing to actually move nuclear energy forward in the U.S., and most of his policies actually hold it back.
The biggest problem is his nuclear waste policy—or lack thereof. Though the pre-Obama policy to put nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain as mandated by the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act needed to be amended, it at least was a policy. And that policy gave the nuclear industry and federal regulators some predictability and confidence that eventually something would be done with America’s nuclear waste.
President Obama’s decision to completely ignore the 1982 law and attempt to terminate the Yucca project has led to a complete unwinding of nuclear waste policy. This has thrust an additional layer of uncertainty onto an industry that was just beginning to emerge from a decades-long hiatus driven by cost, regulatory, and safety uncertainty.
Moreover, instead of identifying policy and regulatory obstacles that could be reformed to help nuclear be more competitive, the President is attempting to subsidize nuclear power into success. For example, instead of developing a rational, flexible, and predictable regulatory process that would allow new nuclear technologies to be efficiently introduced into the market, the President introduced a program where government bureaucrats decide what type of nuclear technology would receive taxpayer money to offset development costs. This unfair, anti-competitive approach reduces nuclear power to being little more than the subject of another big-government program whose future is dependent on perpetual taxpayer support. Nuclear can be so much more.