Do you believe nuclear energy is essential to fight climate change? We need voices like yours to revive American nuclear energy.
Add your name to support our domestic nuclear industry!
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 one of the safest sources 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. Encouraging the use of nuclear power as well as other renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar should be both an economic and national security priority.
However, our domestic nuclear industry has begun to lag, especially when compared to the nuclear industries of the international community, without the firm support of our government. In 2012, US nuclear electricity generation peaked at 104 operating reactors. As of November 2019, there were 23 reactors in various stages of decommissioning and the industry is concerned that over half the existing plants are at risk. In order to ensure nuclear energy thrives in the United States, we must protect our existing nuclear facilities by recognizing their reliability and clean output capability.
We must also invest in the construction of new nuclear facilities as well as nuclear R&D to retake our place as the world’s foremost producer of nuclear energy. This change cannot occur until lawmakers who fully support this vital energy source are elected into office. Incumbent Representative Anna Eshoo, throughout her tenure in Congress, has voted against government support of the nuclear industry. If elected, I pledge to completely support our domestic nuclear industry by acknowledging that nuclear power is the solution to the global problem of climate change.
However, naturally as we produce nuclear energy, we also produce spent nuclear fuel or so-called 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 . 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 spent nuclear fuel 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 spent nuclear fuel, 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.
As gas prices continue to rise across the country, we are in the midst of an energy crisis. Furthermore, the significant effects of climate change have forced Californians to undergo a third year of drought, with the state experiencing the driest January, February and March ever recorded (ca.gov 2022). However, there is a simple and cost-effective solution for both of these problems: Diablo Canyon.
One of the most pressing issues facing the state of California is the decommissioning of the nuclear plant at Diablo Canyon. The plant is scheduled to go offline in 2025. A Stanford study published in November 2021 found numerous benefits to delaying the retirement of Diablo Canyon. Delaying retirement of the plant to 2035 would reduce California power sector carbon emissions by more than 10% from 2017 levels and reduce reliance on gas, save $2.6 Billion in power system costs, and bolster system reliability to mitigate brownouts; if operated to 2045 and beyond, Diablo Canyon could save up to $21 Billion in power system costs and spare 90,000 acres of land from use for energy production, while meeting coastal protection requirements.
Using Diablo Canyon as a power source for desalination could substantially augment fresh water supplies to the state as a whole and to critically overdrafted basins regions such as the Central Valley, producing fresh water volumes equal to or substantially exceeding those of the proposed Delta Conveyance Project—but at significantly lower investment cost.
Operating Diablo Canyon as a polygeneration facility—with coordinated and varying production of electricity, desalinated water, and clean hydrogen—could provide multiple services to California, including grid reliability as needed, and further increase the value of the Diablo Canyon electricity plant by nearly 50% (and more, if water prices were to substantially increase under conditions of worsening drought).
These key findings highlight the state’s dire need for nuclear energy due to its low cost and high versatility. If elected, I will do everything in my power to keep Diablo Canyon open.
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 SMR work being done by Nuscale Power, which received the first ever Standard Design Approval of a small modular reactor design from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I believe this is a huge step forward in making the commercial production of SMRs a reality.
In addition, I firmly support the funding of research initiatives by the federal government to assist in making leaps and bounds in the field of advanced reactor technology. 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.