As the specter of climate change continues to loom over the United States, the search for viable and renewable fuel sources has never been more important. One of these sources, nuclear power, has been largely overlooked on Capitol Hill for far too long.
Any ambition for the United States to be powered by clean and zero emission energy cannot come to fruition without significant investment in nuclear power. Nuclear energy currently supplies 20% of the nation’s electricity and has done so consecutively since 1990. In 2020, nuclear energy provided 52% of America’s carbon free electricity, making it the largest domestic source of clean energy.
The most notable advantage of utilizing nuclear power is the fact that nuclear facilities emit zero greenhouse gases when producing electricity. When compared to fossil fuel plants, nuclear power plants are exponentially safer on a per unit electricity generated basis. Furthermore, nuclear is by far the safest source of energy, resulting in a significantly reduced number of fatalities per year that is 99.7% fewer than coal, 99.6% fewer than oil, and 97.5% fewer than gas.
However, naturally as we produce nuclear energy, we also produce nuclear waste. In 1982, Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) to ensure the nation had a permanent repository to store its spent nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Though, the federal government mismanaged the approval process for Yucca Mountain and has been mired in its controversy for nearly thirty years. As a result, there is still no place to permanently dispose of high level nuclear waste. Currently, spent nuclear fuel is stored in 121 communities across 39 states because the country lacks a permanent location to dispose of the waste . The state of California is home to 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste, waiting to be shipped to a deep geologic repository that was owed to this nation over two decades ago, which cannot happen until Congress prioritizes energy security and technological advancement over political infighting. Consequently, Congress’ failure to create a repository has resulted in a substantial waste of taxpayer dollars. It is projected that the cost of this inaction to the American people, if Congress continues to falter on its commitments, ranges in the tens of billions of dollars.
The federal government has been mired in the controversy of where to put the nation’s nuclear waste for decades. It has become abundantly clear that new and innovative solutions are necessary to solve this pressing issue. However, if we are to make any progress on this decades-old obstacle, it is imperative that we work with the leading experts in the nuclear field. In 2018, Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation released a report calling for a reset of US policy regarding nuclear waste. The report called for the creation of a new, independent, single-purpose nuclear waste organization dedicated to managing the storage, packaging, transportation, and disposal of commercially generated waste, which accounts for nearly 95% of the radioactivity of nuclear waste requiring permanent geologic disposal. I wholeheartedly endorse this position and the other recommendations made in the study, including finance reform to reduce cost inefficiencies and consent driven site selection for permanent nuclear repositories.
Credit: Getty Images
WE NEED ADVANCED NUCLEAR REACTORS
There are significant barriers for nuclear technology and it cannot progress without substantial government support. As a result, I support government funding and investment in advanced nuclear reactor technology which has the potential to make nuclear energy much more efficient, safe, and clean. This technology has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by displacing fossil fuels in the generation of electricity and in other forms of energy production in every sector of the economy. These extensive advantages have led me to the conclusion that we need advanced nuclear reactors both here in the state of California and throughout the nation. If elected, I am committed to ensuring that Congress supports advanced nuclear initiatives and will provide the legislative backing for private industry to establish a new generation of clean nuclear reactors for a more sustainable nation.
I particularly support the work of the American nuclear industry in developing advanced small reactors (SMRs) because of the numerous advantages that they can provide such as relatively small physical footprints, reduced capital investment, the ability to be sited in locations not possible for larger nuclear plants, and provisions for incremental power additions. SMRs also offer distinct safeguards, security and nonproliferation advantages. I also fully endorse the work being done by Oklo Inc. at their Oklo Aurora reactor, which is extremely promising as an important demonstration of the ability of advanced nuclear reactors to convert used nuclear fuel, that would otherwise require disposal, into clean energy and if elected, I will call upon the federal government to organize more such initiatives. Not only would advanced nuclear reactors help greatly in solving our climate crisis, government funding would also engage the private sector in the development of this important environmental and energy security objective.
This is why I’m running for Congress. I promise to put science and facts ahead of partisan politics in an effort to ensure a sustainable and clean environment for both our nation and the world.