President Obama recently participated in a virtual town hall meeting via YouTube, answering questions submitted by viewers. Here is a clip of a question about investing in nuclear energy.
We need to help financially inexperienced people, young and old, learn to recognize the important difference between spending and investing. When you invest money into an asset like a nuclear power plant that will be able to produce a valuable product like reliable, emission-free electricity in locations where there is a strong demand for that product, you can expect to get a return on your money that exceeds the amount that you put in up front. If the project managers are talented, the designers do their job, and the operators use their traditional attention to detail, the plant should be able to produce a valuable product for many decades, making that investment pay off richly for a long time.
If, on the other hand, you put the same amount of money into trying to find new ways to capture what we know to be weak, weather dependent and unreliable sources of energy like the wind and the sun, you might find something. You are much more likely, however, to end up with an expensive asset that occasionally produces electricity on a schedule that does not match customer demand and perhaps works best only in places where there are no customers at all without a long, lossy, expensive, and potentially vulnerable transmission line connection to a market.
From my point of view, there are a lot of better ways that the President could answer the young lady’s question, but for now, I am just pleased to see that at least some of the benefits of nuclear energy are causing a new level of discussion and acceptance.