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Duke Energy CEO says today's technology cannot replace nuclear energy

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Employees drive away from the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown, Pennsylvania, March 26, 2019. On the right is a working power plant operated by Exelon Generation.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Goode told CNBC’s Jim Cramer at the Evolve Global Summit on Wednesday that there is currently no technology that can replace nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy, produced by the splitting of uranium atoms in a process called fission, provides about 20% of America’s electricity.

Duke Energy, operating out of Charlotte, North Carolina, is an American power and natural gas holding company that supplies energy to 7.2 million customers. Carolina receives 50% of its electricity from nuclear power plants.

“I don’t have the technology today that can replace it,” said Goode.

Nuclear energy emits no greenhouse gases, making it a major source of clean energy and a valuable resource in the transition to net zero. This accounts for his 56% of our country’s carbon-free electricity.

However, nuclear power has many critics focused on its risk and history of catastrophic accidents. The United States has lagged behind in building new nuclear power plants, and some states and utilities, including Duke Energy, are moving to close existing plants. Goode says there are currently no environmentally friendly energy solutions available. Coal and natural gas produce emissions, and renewable energy and battery mining have environmental costs.

“I think people understand that in the next few decades we will have to move away from fossil fuels,” she said, adding that “nuclear power needs to be part of the equation.”

Bill Gates is an outspoken proponent of nuclear technology in the clean energy transition. “If we’re serious about solving climate change, frankly, the first thing we should do is keep nuclear reactors running safely,” Gates said. Still, maintaining the status quo is not enough: we need more nuclear power to bring America to zero emissions and prevent a climate disaster.”

Duke Energy is investing in small modular reactors, a technology approach backed by Gates, to see if it can reach the stage of commercialization by the 2030s, she said.

Goode’s view of nuclear power is part of a larger argument that the clean energy transition cannot be achieved without a commitment to both reliability and affordability, and these three factors combine to make nuclear Be part of the mix.

She said energy technology should not be the sole focus of the clean energy transition. “There has never been a single power source powering our country, and I don’t think it will exist for decades to come,” said Goode. “As we plan how we move forward and set ambitious carbon reduction targets, we maintain the dependable systems our customers expect and we also keep an eye on affordability.” We do it within our constraints.”

Affordability is becoming increasingly important to consumers as the United States faces record-breaking heat, rising inflation and tight energy supplies. But Goode said “dirty” energy is not the solution.

“I don’t think it’s a sensible equation,” she told Cramer. I think it’s about working on production, working on the transition, working with our customers to ensure energy efficiency programs are in place, providing flexibility in payments, providing assistance to vulnerable people, We make sure you understand your power usage, which is not about choosing the type of energy we offer, we’re looking at the long term.”

Duke Energy’s carbon emissions have decreased by almost 45% since 2005. This is the result of the use of both coal, natural gas, renewable energy, wind and solar, and increasingly battery technology.

A commitment to affordability and reliability, two additional benchmarks in the energy transition, will prevent the United States from falling into a similar situation as Germany, which is said to have transitioned to clean energy too quickly and moved away from nuclear power after Fukushima. can be prevented. “In my opinion, if we keep an eye on maintaining reliable systems, moving towards carbon-free resources as quickly as possible, and keeping our focus on affordability, the pace is about right.” she said.

“I’m planning for what we think we’ll need in the 2030s and 2040s, to get to net zero by 2050,” Goode said.