U.S. Sen. Lincoln Addresses the Importance of Nuclear Energy

Senator Blanche LincolnAt this year’s US-Japan Roundtable conference Senator Blanche Lincoln (Ret. D-AR), gave the closing address on the importance of nuclear energy to American economy. Currently Senator Lincoln is a member of the Leadership for Nuclear Matters.

Nuclear energy has through the decades been controversial. Americans, in general, mistrust corporations and governments when it comes to nuclear power because of perceived vested interests, arrays of opposing voices, and scientific communication that at times is impenetrable.

“People don’t want corporations, people don’t want government,” Senator Lincoln said. Referring to the need to appeal understand general public’s the point of view, she said “instead, people want results. This is why we need to start this conversation focused on individuals.”

Maintaining our existing nuclear power generation fleet is essential for helping Americans realize their goals by providing clean, inexpensive, and safe energy. It is not possible to take the existing plants offline and also meet environmental and economic targets

We will not be able to invest in new technology if we get rid of what we already have. If we’re going to be serious about the economy and climate change, we need to recognize and value the current benefits of our nuclear energy fleet. Moreover it would not be possible to continue to build on future plants if we do not keep existing plants online.

Despite their benefits, existing plants do face a perfect economic storm. Nuclear power companies have been facing economic pressure from increased regulatory costs and new safeguards since the earthquake and tsunami that struck a nuclear station in Japan in 2011.

“Other nuclear energy facilities — producing affordable electricity safely and reliably — are at risk of premature closure due to competitive electricity markets that are not working for the benefit of consumers or the long-term reliability of the electric grid,” said Marv Fertel, NEI president and CEO.

According to Senator Lincoln, electricity markets do not value the carbon-free nature of nuclear power. Senator Lincoln pointed out that “Nuclear doesn’t get any credit for creating low-carbon energy. This, even though nuclear energy has prevented 600 metric tons of carbon emissions in 2013. That’s equal to 130 million passenger cars.”

More broadly, energies as a whole have suffered as American wholesale prices for energy have plummeted. Recently Vermont Yankee plant has closed due to economic considerations.

Reliability is also a key argument in favor of nuclear power.  “With the polar vortex,” Senator Lincoln said referring to last year’s unseasonably cold weather that shut down many non-nuclear power plants, “we saw that we couldn’t get natural gas into New England when it needed it.”

The combination of the economic and policy factors has created a potentially fatal economic headwind for our nuclear power industry. Therefore, the nuclear energy industry must unite to demonstrate existing carbon free energy sources, including nuclear power, are essential to meeting our goals as a nation.

The bottom line from Senator Lincoln is “we need to demonstrate, and not assume, that existing carbon-free energy sources are essential to meeting our goals.”

>>Go here for more details on the subject please see this Nuclear Matters press release regarding the Vermont Yankee closing.