Support for nuclear energy is slowly growing in American states. While nuclear power has been a part of the U.S. energy mix for decades, it’s only recently begun to gain popularity as an important tool to reducing carbon emissions and relying on cleaner energy sources. 

Associated Press reports

As climate change pushes states in the U.S. to dramatically cut their use of fossil fuels, many are coming to the conclusion that solar, wind and other renewable power sources might not be enough to keep the lights on.

Nuclear power is emerging as an answer to fill the gap as states transition away from coal, oil and natural gas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stave off the worst effects of a warming planet.

AP found that two-thirds of U.S. states are envisioning a role for nuclear in their future energy mixes, with only a third deciding to rely heavily on renewable energy sources and some states, like California and New York, even shutting down current nuclear energy reactors. 

Tennessee Valley Authority President and CEO Jeff Lyash explains: 

“At this point in time, I don’t see a path that gets us there without preserving the existing fleet and building new nuclear,” Lyash said. “And that’s after having maximized the amount of solar we can build in the system.”

If states are unsure of the futures that the separate paths lead to, they don’t need to look further than the EU. There, nations such as Germany are continuing to rely on coal and Russian natural gas while other countries like France and the U.K. recognize the geopolitical and emissions consequences of such decisions and are embracing nuclear power as a reliable, carbon-free energy source. 

Renewable energy has a part to play in our energy grid, today and in the future. But it’s not likely to be reliable enough on its own. The CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, Maria Korsnick, puts it plainly: 

“The scale of this electric grid that’s across the United States, it needs something that’s always there, something that can help really be the backbone, if you will, for this grid,” she said. “That’s why it’s a partnership with wind and solar and nuclear.”