Don’t Forget About Nuclear Power on National Clean Energy Week

As we celebrate National Clean Energy Week, it’s important that we recognize and promote all of the power sources that help to strengthen the economy and protect our environment. This includes nuclear power, which is often excluded from discussions involving the future of clean energy. This omission is troublesome considering that nuclear power is widely recognized as an affordable, reliable, and clean source of energy. Given its many advantages, we must act to ensure a bright future for nuclear power and dispel the negative perceptions that surround this tremendous source of energy.

Following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, many were quick to denounce nuclear power, arguing that its safety concerns far outweighed its environmental benefits. Although this accident was undoubtedly tragic, its magnitude overshadowed nuclear energy’s long track record of safety, with modern technologies rendering power plants as some of the most secure facilities on the planet. This fact doesn’t stop many from attacking nuclear power and ignoring its advantages, as the recent Global Climate Action Summit failed to mention the energy source in its agenda.

This disapproval of nuclear power by environmentalists is especially bizarre considering that it generates a whopping 56 percent of emission-free electricity in the United States. Also noteworthy is that by relying on nuclear power, the United States has evaded 14,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from 1995 to 2016, which amounts to removing 3 billion cars off the road. In a world where an estimated 3 million premature deaths each year are caused by air pollution, it’s crucial that we recognize the substantial role that nuclear power can play in reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality.

The positive effects nuclear power has in combating air pollution are pronounced and proven. A recent analysis shows that had California spent $100 billion on nuclear instead of wind and solar, although quality sources of clean power, the state would have enough energy available to eliminate fossil fuels in its energy mix. Meanwhile, France — a country that places a strong emphasis on nuclear power — produces four times less carbon than California in its electricity market.  

In addition to its minute negative impacts on the environment, nuclear power possesses a number of economic and efficiency advantages that make it an attractive source of energy. The nuclear industry supplies an array of specialized, high-paying jobs and contributes $60 billion to the U.S. GDP. Nuclear also separates itself from other clean energies like solar and wind in that it can produce power in both day and night during any season.

Despite its many obvious advantages, those attacking nuclear power (relying primarily on alarmist rhetoric and misleading information) are accomplishing their goals. Nuclear power plants are failing and production is projected to decline significantly in the coming decades.

It is imperative that we reverse this disturbing trend, and fortunately, there are a number of ways to revive the dying industry. This starts with education. The fact is that too many people have misinformed negative views towards nuclear power, and we must inform individuals of its many advantages in order to drown out the alarmist rhetoric. On the policy side of things, we must pursue an all-of-the-above energy market rid of subsidies to maximize nuclear energy’s potential. Renewables received 94 times the amount of federal subsidies compared to nuclear in 2016. This massive disparity puts nuclear at a major disadvantage, which ultimately harms our environment and economy.   

Although solar, wind, and other sources are great producers of clean energy, nuclear is often lost in the discussion. Nuclear power’s significant economic and environmental advantages are in many ways hidden gems in the energy sector and in the fight to combat climate change. ThisNational Clean Energy Week, we should strive to bring the benefits of nuclear power to the forefront of energy discussions, and as a result we will give both ourselves and our natural environment a shot at a more prosperous, healthful future.

Ronnie ThompsonComment