This is not the first time I’ve brought up President Obama’s Climate Action Plan in a blog post, and it won’t be the last. To quickly refresh: the Climate Action Plan is a set of strategies to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions through policy, technology, and leadership. Many of the recent grants and awards through the Department of Energy (DOE) have paid some sort of homage to the Climate Action Plan in official announcements. This generates some reassurance that we may soon live in an era characterized by the widespread use of clean energy technologies. Most recently, DOE has been working to strengthen the nuclear branch of our energy portfolio.
Last month, DOE announced it will invest more than $60 million in nuclear energy research awards that aim to help shape our next-generation workforce, improve our existing nuclear infrastructure, and develop innovative technologies to ensure that the future of nuclear power generation is safe and efficient. A portion of the $60 million will be allocated to the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies Program, which supports research and development of nuclear energy technologies by advancing manufacturing methods, nuclear reactor structures and materials, and sensing technologies for data analysis.
Another portion of the $60 million will fund higher education programs through the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) to promote a new generation of nuclear energy leaders. Since 2009, NEUP awards have totaled more than $290 million in funding that has been funneled into nearly 90 colleges and universities. Beyond ensuring strong leadership in nuclear energy, this will enable a conversation on the benefits of nuclear energy to move forward, diversifying the United States’ clean energy options.
It can be challenging to communicate why nuclear power can be safe and potentially cost-competitive with other low-carbon forms of electricity generation. Certainly, nuclear energy has had an image problem for decades between well-publicized disasters and unresolved siting for permanent storage.
But with appropriate investments in research and development, we can work together to ensure nuclear energy generation is safe, and eliminate the fears that may be preventing us from embracing this effective form of electrical energy generation. These investments are not about pushing a pro-nuclear agenda as much as they are ensuring we can sustain the energy demand of future generations while realizing a low-carbon future as outlined in the President’s Climate Action Plan.