For negotiators at the Paris climate conference (COP21) to successfully advance global efforts to reduce carbon emissions, nations must embrace a prominent role for nuclear energy.
The Obama administration highlighted the crucial role of nuclear energy when it convened a White House Summit on Nuclear Energy earlier this month. “As America leads the global transition to a low-carbon economy, the continued development of new and advanced nuclear technologies along with support for currently operating nuclear power plants is an important component of our clean energy strategy,” a White House fact sheet developed for the summit states. Many environmentalists are also giving nuclear energy a second look, as they seek practical solutions to constrain carbon emissions.
Nuclear energy facilities provide 63 percent of America’s zero-carbon electricity. Globally, nuclear power plants provide one-third of all zero-carbon electricity. One of nuclear energy’s major advantages relative to other low-carbon energy sources is its unique ability to produce large-scale electricity around-the-clock in extreme weather conditions. Nuclear energy facilities don’t rely on the wind blowing, the sun shining, or just-in-time deliveries of fuel by truck, barge, rail or pipeline. In 2014, the U.S. nuclear energy industry’s average capacity factor—a common measure of efficiency and reliability—was 92 percent.
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