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What's Holding Back Nuclear in America?

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What's Holding Back Nuclear in America?

February 20, 2024

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This piece originally appeared in Forum, published by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

In the United States, the two sides of the nuclear debate are well established. The antinuclear camp, composed mostly of safetyists and conservationists, argues that the risks associated with nuclear waste and meltdown outweigh any benefits that the energy source might offer. Nuclear advocates—often an oddball coalition of conservatives and climate hawks—maintain that nuclear energy is safe, reliable, and crucial to an electric grid that increasingly relies on intermittent power generation.

These two camps—vestiges of the debates of half a century ago, when nuclear was first becoming commercially viable—are highly selective in their priorities. Now, as then, arguments over nuclear focus on safety and local environmental concerns, ignoring the many other inputs that affect energy development. This is a missed opportunity, and has led nuclear advocates and detractors alike to misunderstand the forces behind the country’s dwindling atomic sector.

By now the data around nuclear safety is clear. Nuclear energy is less deadly per kWh produced than just about every other energy source, including wind and hydropower. There’s little doubt that nuclear power can play an important role in adding flexibility to a grid with high levels of renewable penetration. Even after years of industry decline, nuclear remains the largest source of clean power in the United States.

Continue reading in Forum.

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