In an age of shrinking bipartisanship and climbing global temperatures, the Nuclear Powers America Act might just be the bipartisan legislation the country needs to cleanly and reliably power future generations.
”The challenges we face in terms of the climate and the security and reliability of our energy grid go beyond political persuasions because they will impact us all, and the Nuclear Powers America Act is a strong example of finding a common sense solution that works for Democrats, Republicans, environmentalists and everyone else who cares about clean energy production,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson.
The bill, introduced in April, calls for providing existing nuclear power plants with an investment tax credit, modeled after credits for other forms of clean energy like wind, geothermal and fuel cell.
While nuclear supplies 20% of the nation’s electric generation – and 55% of the country’s clean energy – many plants have become economically unfeasible and are facing early closure. An analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that more than one-third of existing plants – accounting for 22% of total nuclear capacity – are unprofitable or scheduled to close.
Renewables like solar are growing rapidly but still account for only 2% of total generation. By contrast, nuclear reactors generate roughly 10 times that amount.
At a time when climate change is receiving more and more attention, groups from all sides of the political spectrum are supporting nuclear power as part of the carbon-free, clean energy mix we need to fend off the worst effects of a warming planet.
“The world probably can’t solve climate change without nuclear power,” wrote Eric Holthaus in Grist, an online publication that covers climate change and sustainability.
Nuclear is the most reliable source of electric generation in the country, producing mass amounts of energy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It would take more than 800 wind turbines at a cost of $1.3 billion, or 15.8 million solar panels at a cost of more than $6 billion, to replace a single nuclear reactor, according to a Third Way analysis done for Axios.
“Our fleet of commercial nuclear reactors provides a crucial source of carbon-free, baseload electricity,” said Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, an original co-sponsor along with Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. “It is imperative that we keep these reactors operating – safely – while we continue to work on demand reduction, renewables, energy storage, and transmission grid resiliency.”
States including New York, Illinois and Ohio have passed similar legislation to provide zero emissions
tax credits to help plants in their respective states.
Many nuclear plants are the economic backbones of their communities, including in rural areas. Each facility employs between 400 and 700 people at wages well above the minimum wage. They also provide funding for community services like schools, infrastructure and law enforcement.
“I always tell people ‘Look at the parking lots,’” said Utility Department Director Donnie Colston. “Nuclear plants create jobs for communities. Their parking lots are full, and those jobs create more jobs across America. We can’t run a clean, reliable electrical grid without nuclear energy being a major part of the mix.”
The IBEW is the largest union working in nuclear energy, with nearly 15,000 members working full-time in more than 55 facilities. Thousands more rotate through the plants performing maintenance and refueling support.
The IBEW is encouraging its members to contact their Representative in the House as well as their Senators and urge them to support the Nuclear Powers America Act (H.R. 2314 / S. 1134).
The IBEW is also supporting the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendment Act, and testified before the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change on the issue in June.