Nuclear Power Garners Bipartisan Support
It’s clear from the debate around the merits and drawbacks of various electricity and fuel sources that energy policy can be a highly polarizing topic. In fact, it’s arguable that there is no energy option that holds a truly bipartisan appeal: Every form of energy faces pockets of dissent. This makes crafting universally accepted energy policy particularly challenging.
Fortunately, there are rare areas for bipartisan agreement among policymakers around specific energy policy issues that must be central to future investment in America’s energy portfolio.
Policymakers agree that whatever sources we invest in, they must be sufficient both to meet growing energy demand and environmental requirements. They agree that the energy we invest in should support growth in American jobs and in the economy. They agree that our energy portfolio should be sustainable over time, aligned with our broader national goals.
The energy policy that I’ve seen garner consistent support from the left and the right over the years is also one with which I’m deeply familiar. This policy involves building a diverse portfolio of low-carbon energy sources, featuring a renewed investment in nuclear energy. And it’s not just policymakers from both sides of the aisle who support nuclear energy – it’s everyday energy consumers as well. According to a Gallup pollconducted in March of this year, nearly 60 percent of Americans support the use of nuclear energy to meet our nation’s electricity needs, and a majority support expanding America’s use of nuclear power.
Next-generation nuclear energy projects are underway in Georgia, South Carolina andTennessee, thanks in part to steady popular support, as well as support from President Obama, bipartisan congressional leaders and other policymakers at the federal and state levels. An additional 10 combined construction and operating licenses for 16 plants are under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
This support is founded in the fact that nuclear energy, safely managed, provides an efficient, reliable source of energy. In fact, nuclear power is the only baseload source of carbon-free electricity. It provides nearly two-thirds of the nation’s low-carbon electricity, and will continue to be an important source of energy well into the future given the advent of innovative large and small reactor designs. The use of nuclear energy prevents more than 613 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year – as much CO2 as is emitted by every passenger car in America.
Bipartisan support for nuclear energy also stems from the boost that it provides to local job markets and to local and state economies. As nuclear energy expands and as more than half of the industry workforce approaches retirement, the industry offers growing opportunities for well-paying careers. The industry already supports more than 100,000 jobs, and the combination of retirements and the construction of new facilities could create as many as 25,000 new jobs in the near term. What’s more, the construction of a nuclear facility spurs the creation of other local jobs in industries ranging from manufacturing to hospitality. The industry generates between $40 and $50 billion in revenue and electricity sales, or some $470 million in total economic output and $40 million in labor wages at each U.S. facility every year. That’s a powerful economic engine and a positive impact that leaders are embracing.
As America refocuses on cleaner energy policies that help boost our economy, nuclear power is becoming a clear and critical part of a secure, sustainable energy portfolio. We need electricity and we want clean air; with nuclear energy we can have both. It’s a source of power that leaders on both sides of the aisle can support.