By Meg Handley |
The United States and nations around the world should expand the use of nuclear energy. It is a low-carbon energy technology that has proven its ability to reliably and affordably provide large amounts of baseload electricity virtually around the clock. Because reliable, affordable electricity supplies are the backbone of a growing economy, nuclear energy is vital to any nation's ability improve its standard of living, to create jobs, to have power for heating and cooling systems, and to enhance energy security.
In the United States, nuclear energy produces electricity for one of every five homes and businesses. It is by far the largest source of electricity that doesn't emit greenhouse gases or particle pollutants. Additionally, America's nuclear energy facilities have an exemplary safety record and are the most reliable power plants on the electricity grid, with an industry-leading capacity factor just shy of 90 percent.
U.S. nuclear energy facilities produce electricity at just over two cents per kilowatt-hour. With the exception of hydroelectric power plants, they are the lowest-cost producer of baseload electricity even in the absence of a tax on carbon, which would significantly increase the cost of fossil-fueled power plants. By burning one kilogram of their respective fuels, coal can power a 100-watt light bulb for about four days, natural gas for about six days, and uranium in a light water reactor can power the light bulb for 140 years.
Looking forward, the U.S. nuclear energy industry is capturing and applying lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan to enhance our ability to manage and mitigate the impact of extreme events. In fact, we already are adding portable emergency equipment at U.S. reactors that provide yet another layer of protection for our facilities.
The bottom line is that, in the coming decades, we will be challenged to simultaneously meet rising electricity demand and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. To meet this challenge, the United States must establish a comprehensive and sustainable national energy policy that supports the development of technology-based, low-carbon solutions. Nuclear energy has an important role to play in helping us meet that challenge.
About Anthony R. Pietrangelo Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute
John Shimkus U.S. Representative, Illinois's 19th District
Michael Mariotte Executive Director and Chief Spokesperson for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service