Evolutionary nuclear energy technologies, already being deployed in some other countries, which are ready for deployment in the United States. However, their commercial viability in the United States will first need to be demonstrated.
Some emerging technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS), for which sustained programs of development and commercial-scale demonstration will be needed during the next decade to ready the most promising among them for widespread deployment starting around 2020.
Expanding the deployment of coal with CCS, renewable energy, and evolutionary nuclear energy technologies may require continuing strong financial and regulatory pushes and new policy initiatives.2 But many of the technologies identified in this report will require decades-long lead times for development, demonstration, and deployment. Therefore it is imperative that these activities be started immediately even though some will be expensive and not all will be successful: some may fail, prove uneconomic, or be overtaken by better technologies. Some failures are an inevitable part of learning and development processes. Long-term success requires that we stay the course and not be distracted by the inevitable short-term disappointments. To help ensure that the potential benefits outweigh the risks, investments in new technology demonstrations must be carefully chosen so as to produce results that usefully inform the deployment decision-making process.
Although it is beyond the committee’s charge to recommend policy actions, it notes that the effective transformation of the energy system will require long-term investment in new energy technologies, policies that encourage such investment, and acceptance of the inevitable disappointments that will punctuate our long-term success.
In addition to the incentives listed in Footnote 1, other possible actions include expanding renewable-energy portfolio standards to promote the deployment of renewable energy and providing federal loan guarantees to promote construction of a handful of evolutionary nuclear plants. Some of these actions are already under way.