Move to nuclear power gathers steam in US

Business

(NewsNation) — Back in the 1970s, nuclear power was seen as the energy future for the U.S., and we led the world in its production. Plants were being built and planned all over the country, and we all saw a future living in homes powered by well-controlled nuclear reactions.

Then came Three Mile Island, where depending on which report you read we either came within minutes of a catastrophic meltdown that would have made Chernobyl look like a campfire or there was a simple malfunction that never really put anyone in all that much danger. In the end, there was a partial meltdown at the plant, and it was a tremendously scary and potentially catastrophic situation. The fact that the movie “The China Syndrome,” a disaster flick centered on a nuclear plant, was in theaters at the same time didn’t help public perception of nuclear power.

Remember: There were no documented fatalities or injuries at Three Mile Island either to workers or to people in the surrounding areas.

Several decades and two other catastrophic nuclear accidents that did cause deaths later, we’re back to looking at nuclear power as a viable energy alternative that wouldn’t be vulnerable to geopolitical instability. Russia and China currently lead the world in nuclear power, but the U.S. has the potential to reclaim that title.

The current situation between Russia and Ukraine, which has led to gasoline shooting past $4/gallon and fueled further inflation fears worldwide, is largely behind the current sentiment. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has urged Europe to explore the nuclear option, saying, “Hopefully, it is now extremely obvious that Europe should restart dormant nuclear power stations and increase power output of existing ones. This is critical to national and international security.”

Bill Gates and his company, Terra Power, are making one of the first advanced nuclear reactors in the U.S. “Nuclear power can be done in a way that none of those failures of the past would reoccur because just the physics of how it’s built,” Gates said.

Currently, the U.S. gets about 20 percent of its power from renewables like solar and wind and another 20 percent from nuclear, leaving the remaining 60 percent generated by fossil fuels, which are more polluting and leave the country more vulnerable to geopolitical hiccups.

Experts say it’s not about completely eliminating the use of fossil fuels, but about increasing the use of carbon-free technology to make the U.S. less dependent on them.

When it comes to safety, the nuclear industry is the safest it’s ever been. Chernobyl and Fukushima were huge learning experiences, and what went wrong in those cases has been analyzed to the core. The U.S. partners with nuclear operators around the world to ensure the latest safety standards are implemented here.

John Kotek, senior vice president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, says, “It really has been smart state and federal policy that has gotten us where we are with wind and solar. Now let’s do it for the rest of the carbon-free technologies, including nuclear.”

There are currently 93 nuclear plants across the U.S. all working at full capacity to provide the 20 percent of U.S. power they make. That means the first move if we’re going to increase our reliance on nuclear power will be building more plants.

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