Column: Nuclear Must Be Part of a Clean Energy Future

A column by Executive Director Irl Scissors
Missourians for a Balanced Energy Future

As we picture an ideal future for our children and grandchildren, many of us hope to leave behind a better place – a government with fewer problems, an education system that keeps this great country competitive globally, and a clean planet.Maybe these are just my hopes. And while I have my strong opinions about our government and education system, a recent report in the Washington Post offered some interesting facts about leaving a clean planet for our kids.

According to this report, last year 31% of the energy produced in the United States came from non-carbon emitting sources, including renewable (wind, solar, biomass, etc) and nuclear power. Coal was at 37% (still over 80% in Missouri). Nationwide, that’s not too shabby considering just over 10 years ago the carbon-free number was 28% and coal was 52%. We still have a ways to go in Missouri.

You’d think that with all the amazing technology that surrounds us, breaking new scientific discoveries and our environmentally conscious way of living, we’d make serious progress by 2040.

Nope. This report predicts that by 2040 carbon-free energy will make up only 32% of our total energy production. That’s a measly 1% gain in almost two decades. Several reasons account for this discouraging math:

1) Natural gas will be more in demand, which isn’t bad, but still produces about half as much carbon as coal. Good, but definitely not great for the long haul.

2) Nuclear plants that went into production about 50 years ago will begin to phase out and trends don’t support new developments keeping up with those production losses, resulting in 3% less nuclear energy.

3) Renewable energy cannot keep pace with the power produced by nuclear, meaning that renewable development adds only 4% to production. That offset to nuclear losses gives us our gain of only 1%.

It’s this slow emersion of carbon-free alternatives to coal that allowed us to go from reducing coal consumption by 15% from 2000 to 2012 to a reduction of only 5% from now until 2040. That’s not acceptable.

If the United States is going to continue to focus on cleaner energy sources and kick the patch that gets us only half way there with natural gas, then nuclear needs to be part of the equation.

Environmentalists and other naysayers have fewer reasons to scoff at this recommendation. Advancements in technology around nuclear energy make development and construction safer, more practical, and economically viable. In fact, Small Modular Reactors (SMR) being considered for development by Ameren would be a boon for Missouri’s economy and clean energy production.

We may not be able to leave a perfect world for our children and grandchildren, but we certainly can do our part now to leave a cleaner one. And investments in a nuclear and renewable energy combination will get us there faster.

Missourians For A Balanced Energy Future | | @MBEF |

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