The Electrical Worker online
January 2017

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The Nuclear Option

There is a lot of uncertainty about the future these days. But here's something I am certain of: Nuclear power must remain an integral part of our nation's energy portfolio if we want to continue to count on reliable and affordable electricity.

The truth is, we can't keep our energy grid secure and online — all while reducing our carbon footprint — without a renewed commitment to nuclear power.

Just look at the numbers. Nearly 20 percent of our electricity comes from nuclear. And in seven states, nuclear is responsible for the majority of power produced.

And despite the rapid growth of solar and wind over the last decade, the overwhelming majority of clean energy still comes from nuclear.

But nuclear power's future has become uncertain, with nearly a dozen plants scheduled for closure.

The problem for the industry came with the rapid drop in oil and gas prices. With competition from cheap gas, not to mention government subsidized renewables, it started becoming too expensive for utilities to keep their plants up and running.

In communities dependent on these plants for jobs, shutdowns will be devastating. We in the IBEW represent many nuclear workers, so we know how important these jobs are to our families and neighborhoods.

And the pain would reach the customer as well. Nuclear is a baseload energy source, meaning in contrast to solar or wind, it provides constant output, 24-7. Without a reliable baseload energy source, brownouts and blackouts could be a recurring problem.

But we are now starting to see lawmakers step and up and preserve this vital energy sector.

As we report in this issue, the Tennessee Valley Authority just put the first new nuclear facility online in 20 years, built and operated in part by the IBEW. We will also see new plants open in Georgia and South Carolina in the next few years.

And states like New York and Illinois — both threatened by numerous plant closures — are taking action to save their endangered nuclear facilities, passing energy legislation to help keep them running.

Union members, business leaders and industry experts — Republicans and Democrats alike — are coming together to make it clear that energy independence, a cleaner environment and maintaining a steady supply of electricity require nuclear to remain a core part of our energy mix.

There are many issues we as a nation are divided on. Energy security and independence should not be one of them.


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Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President