A group of security specialists, nuclear industry professionals and energy players sent Energy Secretary Rick Perry a letter on Tuesday asking him to support the U.S. nuclear industry.
The letter comes as Secretary Perry weighs methods to support coal and nuclear, but is “not ready" to announce a new plan.
The letter argues that nuclear power is an essential safeguard against natural disasters and cyberthreats to national security. It touches on the importance of maintaining nuclear competitiveness on the international stage. It also cites the zero-emissions profile of nuclear and points to climate-related security risks.
Other experts have pointed out that centralized coal or nuclear are not inherently vital to grid stability. According to The Rhodium Group, 0.00007% of outages between 2012 and 2016 were due to fuel supply constraints. Most outages occur on the distribution network.
There is, however, a dynamic debate over nuclear's role in a low-carbon energy mix that has split environmental groups and clean energy advocates. There is broad agreement that shutting down nuclear plants will cause America's emissions to rise in the short term.
“The national security benefits of a strong domestic nuclear energy sector take many forms, many of which overlap and together are woven into the nation’s greater strength and resilience,” the letter reads.
Signatories include Norman Augustine, former undersecretary of the U.S. Army in the Ford administration; Dr. John J. Hamre, former deputy secretary of defense in the Clinton administration; and Nils Diaz, the former chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Representatives from companies such as Exelon and General Motors also signed.
Though Perry isn't giving details on his nuclear and coal bailout plan, he reiterated his support this week for the technologies.
“I get competition. I love competition,” Perry said in a briefing to reporters this week, as reported by the Washington Examiner. “The economics [are] secondary from my perspective. There is the potential to see some really chaotic attacks in this country. That is DOE’s responsibility to make sure that does not happen.”
Last year the secretary sought intervention from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to help struggling coal and nuclear plants. FERC rejected that plan in January. Now the administration is reportedly considering several other methods to support those industries, which has prompted pushback from independent gas producers and renewable energy developers.
Also this week, Perry told a gathering at a natural gas conference that domestic and international opposition to fossil fuels is keeping the world from achievng greater levels of innovation.
“These opponents flatly reject the all-of-the-above strategy, the innovation-driven strategy that’s helping us achieve energy security,” he said. “For the sake of energy security, for the sake of economic security, for the sake of national security, I think for the sake of environmental progress, for the sake of our fellow human beings, we must honor the right of every nation to responsibly use every fuel at its disposal.”