Earlier this week, Georgia Power announced that the Vogtle 3 nuclear plant has officially entered commercial operation. The completion of this 10-year project is a cause for celebration, but also constructive reflection. This is the first new nuclear power plant to come online in over 30 years. With national leaders, energy officials, and local experts focused on building a lower emissions future, nuclear should define the landscape. Instead, it merely dots it. 

Extensive regulations from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission alongside continued fear-mongering from extreme environmental groups have plagued the development of nuclear energy. The burdensome and costly regulatory environment is why many recent nuclear plants have failed to materialize. The Vogtle plant was not only years overdue but also $17 billion over budget. This makes new nuclear plants unattainable for most. 

Environmental-themed fear mongering is misplaced. Nuclear power is the cleanest, most efficient form of energy we have. And newer innovative technologies make it even more promising. Nuclear is a dense form of energy that creates a significant amount of energy from a relatively small footprint. For example, a one-gigawatt nuclear power plant takes up about 1.4 square miles and generates enough power to keep the lights on in approximately 876,000 households for a year. A solar plant generating the same amount of electricity would require about 40 square miles (essentially the same size as Paris) and an equivalent wind farm would require 320 square miles (essentially the same size as New York City’s five boroughs).

Nuclear energy is extremely reliable and it doesn’t come with the complicating supply chain issues like wind and solar that rely on critical minerals sourced from mines that use forced or child labor. Once turned on, nuclear energy’s stable supply becomes key for keeping electricity prices low

Some environmentalists are starting to see the light when it comes to nuclear power.  This has proved influential even in California where Governor Gavin Newsom, an avowed net-zero proponent, recently delayed the planned closure of its last nuclear plant.  

These incremental improvements alongside the Vogtle 3 opening are very promising, but the process for bringing new nuclear power online must be reformed. 

As IWF’s Charlotte Whelan has previously pointed out, “Two-thirds of U.S. states are envisioning a role for nuclear in their future energy mixes.” Such a proposition presents lawmakers from these states—both Republican and Democrat—a key opportunity for sound energy policy that can be supported by both sides of the aisle. 

To learn about reforming the nuclear regulatory landscape, read here