Administration touts nuclear during Trump's ‘energy week’

Rick Perry blamed government regulations for the decline of nuclear energy’s role in the US, though analysts point to falling power prices.

US President Donald Trump will look to boost a nuclear power sector that has been “strangled” by excessive government regulation, according to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

“This administration believes that nuclear energy development can be a game changer and an important player in the development of our clean energy portfolio globally,” Perry said at a press conference on Tuesday.

His comments came as the administration kicked off its “energy week”, which aims to spotlight the president’s efforts towards “achieving American energy dominance”. Perry noted that the US is projected to become a net energy exporter in the coming years, and said the administration would look towards all forms of energy, including renewables.

“That binary choice between pro-economy and pro-environment that has perpetuated, or I should say been perpetuated, by the Obama administration has set up a false argument,” Perry said. “The fact is we can do good for both, and we will.”

On nuclear power, Perry called renewing the sector “a massively important issue for the security of America”.

But while the nuclear industry has been under pressure in recent years, it has been driven by more than just regulatory uncertainty. Michael Ferguson, a director in Standard & Poor’s US energy infrastructure group, said lower energy prices, caused in part by cheaper natural gas, have resulted in headwinds for nuclear generators.

“It has become very inexpensive to get natural gas out of the ground,” Ferguson told Infrastructure Investor, adding that the nuclear sector was not in a position to benefit from lower prices. “Uranium prices don’t [directly] change in response to power prices.”

Ferguson added that Trump’s decision to scrap the Clean Power Plan, which would have given a boost to carbon-free generation such as nuclear, was likely to hurt the industry.