Clean Energy Solutions Must Include Nuclear

Facebook, Google, Walmart and Sony; Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Minneapolis—these are just some of the major corporations and U.S. cities that have pledged to transition to 100% renewable electricity sources over the next few decades. With new commitments being announced on a near- daily basis, it seems clear that growing numbers of citizens, civic organizations and business leaders recognize the importance of clean energy and are eager to support technologies that can help provide affordable electricity and protect the environment.

Corporate and civic leadership on clean energy will be critical to unleash the innovation and investment we’ll need to meet the environmental and economic challenges of this century. But pledges and policies that target only a subset of favored generation technologies risk falling short of, and could eventually even undermine, the core objectives that forward-looking companies and jurisdictions are trying to advance.

This brief argues that a more comprehensive and aggressive strategy is to focus on carbon emissions and allow all proven low-carbon emitting technologies to play a role.1 Specifically, nuclear energy must be considered alongside solar, wind and hydro as leading sources of low-emission power. A more expansive view of clean energy, grounded in a clear-eyed understanding of the needs of the modern electricity grid and of the distinct characteristics of different generation technologies, will produce not only greater environmental bene ts, but also a more resilient, reliable and affordable electricity system.

The scale of the environmental challenge demands that we continue developing and improving on a range of low-carbon options, not just one or two technologies. Environmental and energy experts agree that without a diversity of options it will be much more difficult, if not impossible in economic and in practical terms, to meet rising world demand for electricity while substantially reducing global carbon emissions.

The principal programs/components of federal involvement in the development of unconventional gas extraction technologies included:

  • To achieve very deep carbon reductions, the power system needs low-carbon emitting generators that are available on demand, like nuclear or carbon capture, to complement variable resources like wind and solar.
  • Given the energy technologies available to us today, taking nuclear out of the mix will undermine our ability to achieve climate goals.
  • Precisely because no energy source is perfect and all involve trade-offs, it’s critical to focus on outcomes—like carbon emissions reductions—without favoring or discriminating against particular technologies.

The remainder of this brief delves into each of these core points in turn. We close by highlighting the leadership role that corporations can play in advancing a better informed, more pragmatic and ultimately more effective strategy for achieving our clean energy and environmental goals. However, the same logic applies to public policy goals.