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Biden admin. asks big tech to invest in climate-friendly power

The White House’s recent announcement of new measures to spur development of new U.S. nuclear power plants.

A new energy bill sets targets for renewing France's park of nuclear energy plants but not expanding wind or solar power production
A new energy bill sets targets for renewing France's park of nuclear energy plants but not expanding wind or solar power production - Copyright AFP Daniel ROLAND
A new energy bill sets targets for renewing France's park of nuclear energy plants but not expanding wind or solar power production - Copyright AFP Daniel ROLAND

The Biden Administration is asking big tech companies to invest in new climate-friendly power generation to cover their growing demand. These requests come as the new energy demand gets in the way of Biden’s target of decarbonizing the power sector by 2035.

In response to this news, Digital Journal caught up with Trey Lauderdale, CEO and Founder, Atomic Canyon to find out what the implications are for the sector.

In response to the proposals, Lauderdale is supportive of the policy: “We applaud the Biden Administration’s efforts to decarbonize the power sector by 2035 and recognize the critical role that data companies can play in achieving this goal. The Administration’s call for big tech to invest in climate-friendly power generation  is a pivotal moment for the industry. Partnering with Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) is a significant step forward in unlocking clean, reliable, and baseload power.”

As to the specific details, Lauderdale summarises these as: “The White House’s recent announcement of new measures to spur development of new U.S. nuclear power plants is a welcome move. It acknowledges the importance of nuclear energy in combating climate change.”

Time is important, Lauderdale as points out: “However, we must act quickly to bridge the gap between  intention and action. Currently, no new U.S. nuclear plants are being built, highlighting the need for swift progress.”

Returning to the reactors and their potential to help to decarbonise the U.S. economy Lauderdale sets out the technology: “SMR’s are rapidly advancing and their potential to provide scalable and efficient energy solutions is becoming more tangible. As U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm emphasized, the U.S. needs to add 200 more gigawatts by 2050, equivalent to 198 more  modern AP1000 Large-scale reactors. Expanding both the existing fleet and incorporating SMRs will be crucial to meeting the 2050 carbon-free goals set by the administration.”

Artificial intelligence can also assist in optimising this new form of energy technology. Lauderdale states: “By combining AI capabilities with nuclear energy, we can unlock new efficiencies, optimize performance, and drive innovation. AI is going to be an enabler for this transformation, facilitating regulatory, operations, construction and supply chain management  over the next decade.”

As to the consequences, Lauderdale is optimistic: “This partnership has the potential to transform the energy landscape and help achieve our shared climate goals. Moreover, the exploration of other clean energy technologies, such as geothermal power, highlights the importance of a diversified approach to achieving  net-zero commitments. The tech industry has the potential to lead by example, demonstrating that innovation and sustainability can go hand in hand to address the urgent challenge of climate change.”

 Additionally, in 2025 Japan is set to push for more nuclear power in an energy policy update, as they seek stable electricity supply. Experts suggest Japan will struggle to meet its ambitious targets. The country slashed reliance on nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster  in 2011 and increased use of fossil fuels to generate 70% of its electricity, even as it set out to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

With these measures, Lauderdale’s assessment is: “Japan’s renewed push for nuclear power in its upcoming energy policy update is a bold step towards ensuring a stable electricity supply. Faced with the twin pressures of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and navigating volatile fossil fuel markets, the Japanese  government is reconsidering nuclear energy as a cornerstone of its strategy. However, this shift faces significant challenges, particularly in the realms of public perception, regulatory hurdles, and high costs.”

Lauderdale is also optimistic of this strategy: “Japan’s history and innovation in nuclear energy are notable. Home to one of the largest power plants in the world, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, with its seven boiling water reactors, Japan has demonstrated its ability to build safe, reliable reactors. This expertise  will be crucial as the nation looks to expand its existing fleet and develop next-generation reactors to meet the growing demands of AI and semiconductor industries.”

There are barriers to be overcome if such technology is going to expand, notes Lauderdale: “While public opposition and stringent regulations complicate the effort to build more reactors, geopolitical circumstances and rising decommissioning costs might shift the focus towards relicensing and expanding current facilities. Utilizing existing infrastructure  could reduce costs and expedite the deployment of this clean energy source.”

Returning to the AI theme, Lauderdale concludes with: “The integration of AI and advancements in the semiconductor sector can further enhance the safety, efficiency, and reliability of nuclear plants. These technologies, alongside other clean energy sources, can help Japan navigate public resistance and regulatory  challenges, ensuring a diversified and sustainable energy future. Japan’s energy policy update will be a critical test of its ability to balance innovation with public and environmental safety, and its success could set a precedent for other nations facing  similar challenges.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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