Stop Being Afraid of Nuclear Energy

Photo Credit: Frédéric Paulussen

by Ian Nemelka

Every year, Chapman University conducts a survey regarding America’s biggest fears. Pollution and global warming have typically made the top ten on the list for the past decade. Further down the same list, yet still surprisingly high, is the fear of nuclear incidents or meltdowns as a result of utilizing nuclear energy. When considering the actual data, however, this fear is completely unwarranted. It is because of this misplaced anxiety that laws regulating nuclear power have formed an unnavigable patchwork of regulations which have driven this efficient, clean, and safe form of energy into a state of decline.

Nuclear energy accounts for around 20 percent of the electricity generated in the United States (compared to 17 percent of all renewables combined), produces zero greenhouse-gas emissions, and can operate all day, every day for years. Incidents at nuclear power plants are extremely rare, but highly publicized when the occur. In truth, the industry’s track record has been practically spotless since its original application in 1942. Some newer technologies, specifically modular Thorium reactors, have the potential to safely power the entire world with affordable clean energy. So, if it has proven to be efficient, clean, safe, and reliable, why then has there been very little nuclear expansion for the past 40 years? The truth is the industry is being regulated out of existence.

Playing off public fears, opportunistic lawmakers and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have enacted policy so restrictive it has nearly eradicated any new nuclear development. The licensure process is far too expensive and lengthy to justify any considerable investment in the sector, and often results in the older nuclear power plants being outmoded by operation requirements before their life expectancy has been reached. In other words, the United States is losing nuclear power faster than it can replace it.

After these older plants are dismantled, the energy demand does not disappear. They are quickly replaced with efficient, but less clean power sources like natural gas or coal plants. Consistent power sources such as nuclear, coal and natural gas are necessary to meet energy demand when the weather does not cooperate with conventional renewable power sources like wind and solar. The many burdensome regulations passed in order to make the industry “safer” have, in fact, crippled nuclear energy innovation as well as the United States’ overall effort to move towards cleaner energy sources.

If Americans truly care for the environment and want affordable power, there is a clearer path towards a ‘clean energy revolution’ than the subsidy filled nightmare currently being trailed. Policies which regulate nuclear energy should be reformed and based on actual data instead of fear and cronyism. The over-exaggerated waste and safety risks of the industry are responsibly negligible when compared to the immense benefits that could be provided to American consumers and the environment. Nuclear power is the safest and most cost effective way to produce clean and reliable energy. The Federal Government is keeping our best racehorse in the stable inconceivably fearing it might leave the track and rob a convenience store.

Strata is committed to finding solutions which help move our society away from fear and towards prosperity. Learn more about the potential of nuclear power by reading our report and others like it here: