If You`re Concerned About Climate Change, You Should Support Nuclear Power


I used to be anti-nuclear.  But, several years ago I had to reevaluate my thinking because if you agree with the world’s leading climate scientists that global warming is real and must be addressed immediately  then you cannot simply oppose clean, low-carbon energy sources.


As a former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator and former director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, I have long championed clean air and the need to limit the dangerous pollutants that contribute to climate change.  In doing so, I have come to fully appreciate the role that our current nuclear energy facilities play in meeting our energy needs without increasing carbon pollution.


That’s why I’ve joined with a bipartisan group of leaders including former Senators Evan Bayh and Judd Gregg, in supporting a public education campaign highlighting the essential role of and need to preserve our nation’s existing nuclear energy plants.  Electricity generation accounts for nearly 40 percent of our nation’s carbon emissions.  Existing nuclear power plants, which produce 19 percent of U.S. electricity, emit virtually no carbon pollution and are among the cleanest sources of electricity available.  In 2012, existing nuclear energy plants provided 64 percent of our carbon-free energy.  This means that existing nuclear energy plants prevented 569 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere, which is roughly equal to the carbon dioxide emissions from 110 million automobiles.  Those same plants also prevented emissions of 1 million short tons of sulfur dioxide (which contributes to acid rain) and a half-million short tons of nitrogen oxide (which causes urban smog).


Multiple analyses of climate change by a variety of independent organizations, including National Academies of Science, Electric Power Research Institute, EPA and U.S. Energy Information Administration, show that reducing carbon emissions requires a portfolio of clean energy technologies, including nuclear energy. Many of these organizations agree that preserving existing nuclear energy plants is essential in successfully meeting carbon reduction goals. This is corroborated by the recent report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggesting that nuclear energy could be a key source of low-carbon energy worldwide moving forward.


What is likely to happen if we don’t maintain our commitment to the existing nuclear fleet?  In Germany, for example, electricity generation from coal has risen to 45 percent last year, the highest level since 2007. Replacing clean electricity from nuclear sources with coal triggered a 25 million ton increase in carbon emissions, the equivalent of adding 4.4 million cars to the road.  What’s more, some German utilities are burning lignite coal, which has the highest carbon content of any fossil fuel.  Germany represents an important cautionary tale as we consider the possible consequences of losing our existing nuclear resources.


As we continue our vital effort to protect clean air, clean water and healthy communities, and cut the carbon pollution that fuels climate change, it is important to keep in mind the contribution our existing nuclear power plants make toward producing clean energy while meeting America’s energy needs. Maintaining and preserving the existing nuclear power in this country is vital to achieving our clean energy and carbon pollution reduction goals, and in order to do so, we must start to value the low-carbon benefits they offer today.



For inofmation:

Ms. Browner served as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Clinton, and as Director of the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy under President Obama. She is a member of the Leadership Council of Nuclear Matters, an organization that is funded by nuclear-energy concerns such as Exelon Corp



Source: Browner