I must take exception to Jerry Taylor’s claim that nuclear power is not economically competitive or that investors are afraid of the technology. Nuclear plant construction hasn’t been stymied by free-market forces. The culprit here is government decision-making, i.e., public policy that imposes significant risk and perpetuates a subsidies-first mentality.
Despite these misguided policies, investors still like nukes. They continue to spend on navigating government red tape (a lengthy prelude to actual construction) and on the nuclear industrial base. Cash is flowing into projects that extend the life of existing plants and build the infrastructure needed to fuel them.
Because public-policy questions introduce significant risk to new plant construction, most investors hesitate to plunge heavily in that arena without government help. Rather than fight the bad policy, they opt to mitigate its consequences by trying to secure subsidies. That’s unfortunate but understandable behavior in a market distorted by excessive regulation.
Fact is, nuclear energy has never been fully privatized or commercialized in the U.S. — or anywhere else, for that matter. But that does not mean that it can’t happen.
Parts of the nuclear industry have been privatized and commercialized. For plant operations and nuclear-fuel production, private enterprise is working. And this success gives investors confidence that new nuclear energy can work as well. The key to the long-term success is to let the private sector fully commercialize the industry, through all phases of the nuclear fuel cycle.