The Nuclear Renaissance 2.0

The World Nuclear Exhibition was held in Paris, France, from Nov. 28-30, 2023.

Sitting here in France at the World Nuclear Exhibition among 20,000 nuclear stakeholders, it seems a new day for nuclear has arrived. The prospects of carbon-free 24/7 baseload power, a massive workforce and lucrative supply chain means billions of dollars and gigawatts of electricity.  And how has public opinion on nuclear shifted so rapidly? Most believe that Ukraine, emissions reductions, and EVs are responsible. Let me explain.

First, let’s start with emissions, and their influence. COP28, the United Nations Climate Conference, was in full swing in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and the message from Europe and North America is different than at previous iterations of this event. The message—baseload nuclear power is essential to reducing carbon emissions while ensuring reliability. The data and jury are in—without an astronomical growth in nuclear power plants, a 1.5C reduction in planet temperature cannot be attained.


World leaders in Dubai said renewables alone are insufficient for meeting decarbonization goals. How do they know this? Because vast sums of money have been appropriated and spent trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with intermittent renewables—and the effort has fallen short. Yet, the clock is ticking on these national goals with 2050 less than three decades away.

Tim Echols

But there have been other factors hitting global ratepayers in their wallet. Practically all of Europe boycotted Russian gas because of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, forcing them to import American liquefied natural gas (LNG), driving up prices in Europe and in America. That European price spike was staggering and created a political backlash not seen since the Arab Oil Embargo in the early 1970s.

According to French officials, public support for nuclear is growing again, giving President Macron the confidence to reverse his 2017 commitment to reduce France’s dependence on nuclear and publicly support an initiative calling for France to build at least 13 large reactors across the country. Other European countries, including Poland and Sweden, are committing to the next generation of nuclear technology too, particularly countries that depend on Russian energy.

Finally, the rush to electrify cars, trucks, delivery vans, and home heating puts gigawatts of electric load in the queue. Add to that the green hydrogen craze, the most recent “shiny object” that is on the rise everywhere, and viewed by many as the way to clean-up the Class 8 truck fleet and get rid of diesel emissions.

Finally, district heating, common in New England, and industrial heating at factories create a new opportunity for nuclear. Don’t forget about data centers and crypto-mining facilities too.  All need electricity.

So it seems that nuclear energy has been called to the plate like a pinch-hitter in a late-inning baseball game—to hopefully deliver that home run needed to provide price stability, energy security, grid reliability, and low-carbon power for future generations to enjoy. Will it happen?  We proved in Georgia that it could be done with our long-term investment in Plant Vogtle. Let’s hope other states follow our lead and swing for the fence.

Tim Echols is Vice-Chair of the Georgia PSC and led the motion to keep the two-unit expansion at the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia going after the Westinghouse bankruptcy.