The US Wants To Boost Its Nuclear Power

After decades of dwindling, nuclear energy could be making a big comeback in the US. Last week, the House passed through bipartisan legislation that aims to bolster nuclear energy with a sweeping 365-36 vote. 

The measure, the Atomic Energy Advancement Act, will essentially make it easier to build nuclear power plants by speeding up environmental reviews and reducing license fees that applicants have to pay before setting up advanced nuclear reactors.

It’s unclear how the legalization will progress from here since the Senate has its own nuclear energy bill. However, per The Hill, both bills have bipartisan support and there are efforts to reconcile the two pieces of legislation.

Either way, it’s looking very likely that the US nuclear industry will be given a boost very shortly. 

“We have worked very hard, and most agree that a robust and growing nuclear industry is critical for reducing emissions, providing reliable, affordable, clean energy to Americans,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).

“Nuclear energy can help us build durable economic and strategic relationships around the world, especially as the influence of China and Russia in this industry grows,” she added.  

Nuclear power: pros and cons

Nuclear energy has received a bad rap in recent decades, but many lawmakers, scientists, and even environmentalists are starting to see the mammoth benefits it could offer. 

Much of its nasty reputation stems from the handful of disasters involving nuclear meltdowns, such as Chernobyl and Fukushima. As catastrophic as the incidents were, nuclear is actually one of the safest energy sources. Compared to the millions of people who die from air pollution from fossil fuels every year, the number of people who have been killed in nuclear accidents is very small. 

There is also the problem of nuclear waste, which is highly radioactive and will remain so for several thousand years. 

However, healthy nuclear power plants release less radioactive material than any other major energy source. It’s little-known, but oil extraction and coal-mining leak significant amounts of radiation into the environment that would otherwise be contained. 

Nuclear power plants can produce a huge amount of low-cost, reliable energy. They also emit relatively low greenhouse gas emissions, meaning they could prove to be crucial in efforts to achieve the target of zero emissions and stave off the worst of the climate crisis.

Globally, nuclear energy is on the up

The recent nuclear legalization pushes in the US are broadly in line with the trends being followed by other economic powerhouses.

Globally, around 10 percent of our electricity comes from nuclear. Although some countries like Germany have recently ditched their nuclear power plants, nuclear power generation is on the rise worldwide. 

Much of this increasing activity is occurring in Asia where nuclear power plants are booming in number. As of January 2023, 10 out of the 15 largest nuclear power plants in the world based on capacity were based in Asia, most notably in South Korea and China.

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