During the nearly two months since the Gulf oil spill numerous critics have characterized the disaster as an overdue wakeup call to put America on a clean energy path. The fact is this nation’s 104 nuclear energy facilities already provide the roadmap to get us there.
Nuclear energy has the lowest direct impact on the environment — including air, land, water, and wildlife — of any energy source because it does not emit harmful gases, isolates its waste from the environment, and requires less area to produce the same amount of electricity when compared to other sources.
Nuclear energy is also the most cost-effective and reliable means of baseload generation. According to a 2008 Nuclear Energy Institute study comparing U.S. electricity production costs from 1995-2008, nuclear energy averaged 1.87 cents per kilowatt-hour, coal 2.75 cents per kilowatt-hour, gas 8.09 cents per kilowatt-hour, and petroleum 17.26 cents per kilowatt-hour.
And in terms of safety, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks the nuclear energy industry as one of the safest industries in the United States — a standard that’s maintained through a culture of continuous improvement that promotes self-identifying and correcting potential issues combined with rigorous government and industry oversight.
When it comes to creating more clean, reliable, and safe sources of energy, nuclear is one instance where we could use more of the same.