As the Biden administration ramps up the most aggressive climate agenda in history and faces pressure from more than 300 corporations to set ambitious emissions goals, it’s worth asking why they seldom mention the largest source of clean energy in the United States: nuclear power.
Is that because nuclear power is a “false solution,” as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says?
-Bernie Sanders “The Green New Deal” Climate Proposal
False. Completely make believe.
Producing about 20 percent of total U.S. annual electricity, nuclear’s electricity production capability dwarfs other clean energy sources like wind, solar, and hydropower, which only produce 7.2 percent, 2.5 percent, and 6.3 percent, respectively. Nuclear power is carbon-free and provides cheap and reliable electricity, making it essential to lowering U.S. carbon emissions both in the short- and long-term.
Despite nuclear power’s reliable track record for reducing emissions, leftist policies and extreme environmental groups have consistently downplayed its ability to lower emissions and undermined its growth. Last year in New York, for example, Gov. Andrew Cuomo oversaw the shutdown of Indian Point Energy Center, a clean nuclear power plant that reliably provided a quarter of the electricity used in New York City and Westchester County. These anti-nuclear policies have caused America’s nuclear power capabilities to remain at the same level for the past three decades while increased energy consumption has led to overall higher carbon emissions
In their steadfast promotion of renewables, many environmentalists ignore nuclear’s ability to provide reliable, consistent, and affordable carbon-free electricity. While renewable energy sources like wind and solar play a valuable role in our energy grid, nuclear power offers a more reliable path to lowering carbon emissions in electricity production without increasing energy bills for Americans. Other countries, such as France, have already shown that they can essentially decarbonize by significantly relying on nuclear power. No country has ever decarbonized on wind and solar energy alone.
The reliability of nuclear power was demonstrated in February 2021 during extreme winter weather in Texas. While natural gas plants shut down due to lack of weatherization, and some wind turbines became iced over and inactive, all but one of Texas’ nuclear reactors stayed online. (A single generator shut down due to its automatic safety protocol.)
Furthermore, nuclear power is safe. Studies in top scientific journals find that nuclear power plants are by far the safest way to make clean and reliable electricity. Still, some Americans continue to be afraid of reactors. Since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, there has been only one notable nuclear accident. In 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake unleashed a tsunami that devastated large areas of Japan’s coast including the Fukushima power plant, which led to the meltdown of three reactors. While many were evacuated and the cleanup efforts were significant, there were no casualties from radiation. Following these accidents, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission established additional stringent requirements for nuclear safety.
Instead of fighting against this safe and reliable form of clean energy, policymakers should further invest in the current and next generations of nuclear technologies to make nuclear power more widely available domestically and abroad. It’s good for the environment, energy costs and America’s global leadership. Far from a “false solution,” nuclear power is the most promising solution for a clean energy future.