Fleischmann: As Bipartisan Support for Nuclear Energy Grows in Congress, Progressives Should Reconsider Their Opposition

March 10, 2020
Press Release
As Bipartisan Support for Nuclear Energy Grows in Congress, Progressives Should Reconsider Their Opposition
By U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann
March 10, 2020

Any serious conversation about the future of America’s energy production must include nuclear energy, which accounts for 20 percent of all American energy production and 55 percent of American carbon-free-energy production. Unlike wind and solar, nuclear energy can be reliably supplied on demand, not just when the wind is blowing or when the sun is shining. Nuclear-energy plants also have the advantage of using less land space than solar and wind farms.

In the past year, there has been an increased focus by both parties on global carbon output and the future of our environment. Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) has claimed that “climate change is a major national security threat and a global emergency.” Yet, in his Green New Deal plan, Senator Sanders also calls nuclear energy “a false solution” to the problem. If climate change is the “major national security threat” and the “global emergency” that Sanders claims it is, why is he against our nation’s best chance at reducing carbon emissions?

Thankfully, President Trump, unlike Senator Sanders, has supported the development and deployment of nuclear power. Under Trump’s leadership, the Department of Energy has begun to work with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to accelerate the deployment of advanced nuclear reactors, which will be safer and more versatile. In December of 2019, the NRC approved an early site permit for the Tennessee Valley Authority to build a small modular reactor at the Clinch River Site, in my district in Tennessee. In 2018, Congress passed and the president signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, which eliminated financial and technological barriers that stood in the way of American nuclear innovation.

Those steps are reflective of a bipartisan consensus growing in Congress, and of a White House willing to support it. The United States cannot afford to continue to backslide from its position as a world leader in nuclear-energy research and development, and Congress has begun to recognize as much. In the past few years, we have made progress on nuclear innovation, and it would be a disservice to all Americans if that bipartisan work were to stop. If Sanders and other progressives want to get serious about actively reducing global carbon emissions, I’d encourage them to reconsider their opposition to the most reliable source of carbon-free energy in the United States.

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