U.S. Presidential Prospects: Clinton on Nuclear

As the U.S. presidential race heats up, examining both remaining candidates’ historical stances on energy issues- particularly nuclear energy- can provide valuable insight to what lies ahead. Recently, Forum on Energy profiled presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s stance on nuclear energy.


Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s public position on nuclear energy has shifted somewhat over the years. When asked about nuclear power during her 2008 presidential bid, Clinton responded, “I’m agnostic about nuclear power. Until we figure out what we’re going to do with the waste and the cost, it’s very hard to see nuclear as a part of our future.” Then-Senator Clinton was also very outspoken against the highly-politicized Yucca Mountain proposal, the repository for nuclear waste in Nevada, reiterating in 2008, “I voted against Yucca Mountain. I’ve spoken out against Yucca Mountain.”

Mrs. Clinton has adopted a different approach in her 2016 presidential campaign, one that drew a stark contrast between her and her Democratic primary opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders was very outspoken against nuclear energy, repeatedly asserting that there was no place for it in his administration. Though she confirmed her support of clo
ser review of the controversial Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York, Mrs. Clinton did not call for its closure, unlike Sen. Sanders.

Recently, Mrs. Clinton has spoken favorably of nuclear energy in the context of a clean-energy solution, with her policy director Jake Sullivan stating: “She believes nuclear energy has an important role to play in our clean-energy future.” According to her energy plan, Mrs. Clinton aims to “increase public investment in clean energy R&D, including in…advanceshutterstock_416891026d nuclear.”

It is likely that Mrs. Clinton’s policy on nuclear energy would largely follow that of President Obama. She supports the president’s Clean Power Plan and has vocally participated in the global drive to reduce short-lived greenhouse gases and other climate-affecting pollutants. Mrs. Clinton has said that “rapidly shutting down our nation’s nuclear power fleet puts ideology ahead of science and would make it harder and more costly to build a clean energy future,” which is in line with the EPA’s position.

On June 28th, President Obama and the leaders of Mexico and Canada announced the goal that 50% of North American energy will be generated by clean power sources by 2025. This tees up a continuation of progressive policy, should Mrs. Clinton be elected to the White House, given her public campaign for an ambitious climate change plan. Considering the role nuclear logically plays in low-carbon energy diversification, a Clinton presidency could be promising for the nuclear industry. The Democratic party tends to be more averse to nuclear energy than the Republican party- particularly concerning waste issues- however, meaning only time will tell how Mrs. Clinton may approach these varying interests.