The United States’ reentry to the Paris Climate Change Agreement on February 19, 2021 pledged the U.S. to reduce its emissions by more than it is currently projected to achieve. The solution to this dilemma is to embrace nuclear power. Despite being an effective source of clean energy, nuclear power currently makes up less than 20% of the United States’ total electricity production. There is room to expand nuclear energy production, which will help meet the Paris Climate Change Agreement goals.
Like other clean energy sources such as wind and solar, nuclear energy releases zero carbon emissions or air pollution. Unlike wind and solar however, nuclear energy is generated 24/7 making it a more reliable power source.
Nuclear energy has a significantly higher capacity factor than alternate forms of energy. The capacity factor is the ratio of actual energy output to maximum possible energy output. This stems from nuclear energy’s lack of random variables that can alter energy production. While wind and solar energy depend on a variety of uncontrollable variables such as wind speed and available sunlight, nuclear energy is predictable and constant.
Despite making up less than one fifth of the United States’ total electricity production, nuclear power provides more than half the U.S.’s clean, non-emitting electricity. Nuclear power is far more efficient at producing electricity than other forms of clean energy. If we want to continue using energy at our current rate and still meet our climate change emission reduction goals, nuclear energy is essential.
Investing in nuclear energy will create a large number of high paying middle-class jobs. Nuclear power plants generate large amounts of electricity that can be widely distributed to large cities or small rural areas while also creating jobs all over the country.
Alternative forms of clean energy are expensive, unreliable, and will ultimately hurt the poor who will struggle to afford electricity. Nuclear energy is much cheaper than alternative forms of energy and thus will make it easier to provide more people with access to low cost electricity.
Other countries have embraced nuclear energy much more readily than the United States. China and Russia are expanding nuclear energy production and will ultimately surpass the United States in nuclear technology if we do not have a nuclear renaissance. This poses a risk to our national defense as well as our economy.
Having a well-developed civilian nuclear sector will increase innovation and allow the United States to maintain its status as the leader in nuclear technology.
Despite being the future of clean energy in America, the government has hurt the nuclear power industry by providing much larger subsidies to other forms of clean energy. Government subsidies for the solar sector are on average 250 times greater than for the nuclear sector, while subsidies for the wind sector are on average 160 times greater.
Instead of hurting the nuclear sector by providing outsized incentives to its competitors, the government should promote nuclear power through increased investment and research. Expanding the nuclear sector and attracting more private companies to enter the space is beneficial to the United States’ national security, adherence to environmental regulations, and strengthening of the middle class.
Jackson Goon is an intern with the Lexington Institute. The views expressed are the author’s own.
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