Energy Policies of Nuclear Power

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In today’s day and age, the debate over energy policies and the implementation and utilization of nuclear power and energy is gaining relevance. With the two most prominent political parties in the United States having varying opinions on either of these matters, there has been much conflict and debate, and little to no changes.

In the case of energy policies, the two parties have pretty different views. Regarding the Republican Party, they are typically in support of the development of all forms of energy that are marketable in a free economy without subsidies, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear power. Republicans also support the development of renewable energy sources, but not at the expense of taxpayers money.

Republicans also support market-based development of renewable energy, such as partnerships between traditional energy industries and renewable energy industries, which can allow for a more aggressive development of alternative energy sources such as wind, hydro, solar, nuclear, and tidal energy, without hindering the growth and development of the economy. (ansnuclearcafe.org) In respect to the typical Republican’s opinion on environmental regulations, the party is usually opposed to federal environmental regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), preferring environmental regulations to be fashioned by each individual state rather than at the federal level. (ansnuclearcafe.org) The party also strives to achieve environmental goals that are more cooperative with industry.

In respect to coal, one of the leading contributors to the energy in the United States, the party supports the development of new “environmentally responsible” coal plants, as well as the research and development of clean coal technology to convert coal into liquid fuel or gas (that can be easily, and most importantly, cleanly burned). Lastly, some general goals of the Republican party’s energy party includes the creation of jobs, spurring of overall economic growth, lower energy prices, and a strengthened domestic energy industry.

On the other hand, the Democratic party states that protecting the environment is one of their top priorities, and typically makes their investments into clean energy and sustainable resources that can help protect the environment. Much of the platform’s debates regarding energy policies relates to climate change/global warming. The Democratic party is against pollutants that primarily arise from coal-fired power plants and strongly believes that they are a significant contributor to the threat that faces our environment and atmosphere, and a threat to the health of the general public. The most recent democratic president, Obama has as made the most significant strides and advancements to cut pollution, and increase fuel efficiency (specifically as a standard for vehicles). The party also believes in making diplomatic efforts on an international level to work toward an agreement to limit/reduce emissions on a larger scale.

Regarding the nuclear power aspect– because the technology is relatively modern, and not fully explored or investigated to its fullest depths, neither party has a concrete view on the matter, rather varying opinions on either side. However, in light of recent events, Nuclear energy is appearing to be the area where Democrats and Republicans can find some form of agreement. The parties voted and advanced legislation Wednesday to update regulations and drive more advanced nuclear power plants into the market via The Nuclear Power Modernization Act.

The Nuclear Power Modernization Act can help simplify the strict federal permitting process for new reactor designs at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Democrats are typically only pro-nuclear energy when it is done safely, and because it produces no emissions and can help combat the effects of climate change. Republicans are pro-nuclear energy on the basis that it can create jobs, and can be more economically effective than our current methods (coal, natural gas, etc.).

Hopefully, we will begin to see the two parties working together to formulate change for the better in these areas.

The Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution relates to the United States energy policy in a couple of ways. The Tenth Amendment declares that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The Tenth Amendment was added to the United States Constitution to emphasize the limited nature of the powers delegated to the federal government. In delegating just specific powers to the federal government, the states and the people (with some small exceptions), were free to continue exercising their sovereign powers. (wikipedia.org)

All of this relates to the United States energy policy because states can create laws regarding the environment if there aren’t any regarding the subject at the federal level. One example of states taking advantage of the tenth amendment in regard to the environment, is in the case of California and plastic bags. In August 2014, California became the first state to enact legislation imposing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores.

Recently, there have been more laws created at the federal level that pertain to energy policy and environmental conservation. The most recent major federal law is the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was an attempt to combat growing energy problems, and change the energy policy of the United States by providing tax incentives and loan guarantees for energy production of various types. The bill was passed by the United States Congress on July 29, 2005, and signed into law by President George W. Bush on August 8, 2005.

One controversial part of the act was to change daylight saving time by four to five weeks, depending upon the year; however, some scholars have questioned whether daylight saving results in a net energy savings (wikipedia.org). Another federal law is the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act is a United States federal law that is designed to aid in controlling and getting a handle on air pollution on a national level. It was one of the United States’ first and most influential modern environmental laws, and one of the most comprehensive air quality laws in the world

Lastly, the Clean Water Act, formerly the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, was the first major U.S. law to address water pollution. The main points of this act are as follows: Established the basic structure for regulating pollutant discharges into the waters of the U.S., gave EPA the authority to implement pollution control programs, and made it unlawful for any person to discharge any pollutant into navigable waters, (unless a permit was obtained under its provisions).

The states affect the overall energy policy and standards of the United States in numerous ways, including taxes, land use controls, regulation of energy utilities, and energy subsidies. (wikipedia.org) If desired, states may establish environmental standards that are stricter than those set by the federal government. Typically, this includes the regulation of oil and gas production (specifically on non-federal land) is left up to the states. For example, California has gone through a series of energy crises in recent years, and has reacted with several different laws concerning energy.

The California Energy Code, or Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations, established in 1978, was in response to a legislative mandate to reduce California’s energy consumption. Some states have been taking great strides to establish a more active role in the nation’s race for change. Pennsylvania, for example, recently passed a bill that establishes and sets aside a $500 million fund to support renewable energy projects. The bill authorizes the Commonwealth Financing Authority to borrow $500 million, that will split into six funding sources relating to energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Lately, the President has been taking a more active role regarding energy laws and the energy policy of the United States. Recently, on September 28, 2018, the President signed into law a few different acts that are related to energy and energy policy. The first act, “H.R. 589,” or the “Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act,” establishes guidelines and policy for the Department of Energy regarding energy research and development programs and reforms (whitehouse.org). The second act, “H.R. 1109,” amends the Federal Power Act to clarify the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over mergers or consolidations by a public utility (whitehouse.org).

Next, Lastly, the president signed into law “S. 97,” or the “Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act of 2017,” which amends the Energy Policy Act to update the mission and objectives of the Department of Energy’s civilian nuclear energy research, development, and commercial application programs. These new acts will reform the way that major corporations can research and innovate new energy technologies. The current administration (majority republicans), and the past administration (primarily democrats) have differing opinions on laws regarding energy policy.

The EPA’s recently announced Affordable Clean Energy rule, replaces the former democrat President, Barack Obama’s, Clean Power Plan, is the most significant shift towards energy sanity in more than a decade. President Trump’s new Affordable Clean Energy rule does indeed acknowledge that greenhouse gas emissions impose costs on society. The new rule’s real and important change is that it finally constrains the scope of power station emissions regulation to within current law.

In recent times, the relevance of energy policy has risen (especially in Supreme Court) due to the extremity of the climate change dilemma that poses our nation. The Supreme Court has been busy closing cases and making decisions that are considered major victories in regard to making the shift toward customer-friendly, clean, low-cost, and reliable energy resources.

The Supreme Court’s most recent decision, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) v. Electric Power Supply, responds to a rule FERC issued in 2010 under the Federal Power Act (FPA), which requires power market operators to pay electric consumers for their commitments not to use power at certain key times (such as when demand is particularly high) (qa.americanbar.org). The FPA required that these payments for not using electricity be equal to the rates power generators are paid for generating electricity.

A second Supreme Court case, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. (2007), is a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court case in which twelve states and several cities of the United States filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to force the federal agency to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as pollutants (seminole.wateratlas.us.org). Section 202 of the Clean Air Act, requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to set emission standards for ‘any air pollutant’ from motor vehicles or motor vehicle engines ‘which in his judgment cause[s], or contribute[s] to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.’ (seminole.wateratlas.us.org)

Lastly, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away a challenge led by states and environmental groups against Environmental Protection Agency regulation that lets government agencies transfer water between different bodies, such as rivers and lakes, without needing to protect against pollution. The nine justices then placed the case in a lower court ruling, upholding the EPA’s “water transfers rule,” issued in 2008 by Republican former President George W. Bush’s administration. Under the landmark Clean Water Act, permits are now required for the “discharge of any pollutant” into “navigable waters.” Opponents of the EPA rule said water transfers can pollute otherwise pristine water bodies and should require permits (epa.org).

These Supreme Court decisions have helped shape the way that we as a nation are handling the climate crisis especially from a reduction of pollution standpoint. Hopefully there will be more cases in future times regarding limitations on large industrial corporations outputs and even more limitations on vehicles in order to really bring the changes we need to to a nationwide level.

Despite lingering disagreement about the causes of climate change, the impacts are becoming apparent and have spanned across our nation. Through the utilization of renewable resources, and clean, sustainable sources of energy, we can hopefully lessen the effects of climate change or even eliminate them all together. It has become evident that we need to step up our game, as a whole– as a nation, when it comes to this issue.

In lieu of these recent events and in light of these issues, many local leaders have already started working hard to cut energy use, use more renewable energy sources, improve transportation systems, reduce waste, and prepare their communities using the power that they have. Through local climate and sustainability action, cities and towns are creating jobs, adding transportation options, and spurring green energy investments that cut utility bills, provide energy choices, and increase livability. These actions give healthy and resilient communities a competitive edge in attracting businesses, residents, and workers. It is crucial that we follow in the footsteps of those who are initiating positive change, even in small quantities, so we can make the necessary improvements.

One of the most obvious and significant ways to reduce the effects of climate change and pollution in the United States is to start by addressing the single largest source of carbon output into our atmosphere– power plants. The Clean Power Plan puts nationwide standards in place, for the first time ever. This will hopefully make vast improvements in the reduction of pollutants in the air all throughout our nation.

Personally, as a country, I believe we should be investing our time and resources to investigate and research the possibilities and vast unknowns of nuclear power. Nuclear power seems to be a viable option in regard to clean energy, sustainable resources, and pollution in comparison to our current resources, fossil fuels and coal. The passing of the the Nuclear Power Modernization Act can help prompt and promote the construction and investigation of nuclear power plants. There are many advantages to making strides in the nuclear energy direction.

Nuclear energy has relatively low costs in comparison to the forms of energy we are using most often today– yes, the initial construction costs of nuclear power plants are high, and so is the nuclear substances that fuel the reactions (specifically, uranium). It is also quite expensive to control and get rid of nuclear waste, and to maintain plants (energyinformative.org). Despite these compelling drawbacks regarding the expenses, nuclear energy is cost-competitive and generating electricity in nuclear reactors is cheaper than electricity generating from oil, gas and coal, (our primary sources of energy) also nuclear power is a renewable energy source.

Another positive of nuclear energy is that nuclear power plants provide a high and stable base load of energy. This can work alongside renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. The electricity production from the nuclear power plants can be raised or lowered to compensate for when good wind and solar resources are available and when the demand is high for those resources. Lastly, nuclear plants create little to no pollution, and this is an especially important factor during this time due to the climate crisis involving greenhouse gasses and the atmosphere. Nuclear energy is a good alternative to replace other energy harnessing methods that are currently in use today such as coal, oil, and natural gas. The environmental effects of nuclear power are relatively light compared to the previous listed.

The downside is that nuclear waste is potentially harmful for both humans and the surrounding environment when not contained correctly. Nuclear energy is also a potentially sustainable resource by the use of breeder reactors and fusion reactors. Lastly, Nuclear power has an incredibly high energy density– It is estimated the amount of energy released in a nuclear fission reaction is ten million times greater than the amount released in burning a fossil fuel atom (e.g. oil and gas) (eia.org). Therefore, the amount of fuel required in a nuclear power plant is much smaller compared to those of other types of power plants that we use more often today.

Despite the solutions listed above, no solution/intervention action would be complete without a systematic strategy/solution for reducing or eradicating China’s emissions. In 2014, China pledged to put a cap on greenhouse gases and increase non-fossil fuel to 20 percent of its energy mix by 2030 (edf.org). According to data from the 2018 BP Statistical Review of world energy, China’s emissions passed those of the U.S. in 2008, and by 2012 had surpassed the combined contribution of both the U.S. and the EU. (edf.org) If these trends persist, China will be responsible for the most atmospheric carbon dioxide in less than 20 years. (edf.org)

In conclusion, it is clear that steps need to be taken, not only within our own nation, but it is necessary for a worldwide effort to combat the negative effects of climate change.

Cite this paper

Energy Policies of Nuclear Power. (2021, Nov 26). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/energy-policies-of-nuclear-power/

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