Congress Blog

U.S. must not turn its back on disaster resilient, carbon free energy

I remember growing up during a time in which the United States was literally held over a barrel by foreign, often hostile, nations due to their control of our oil supply.

We now thankfully live in a different time and have the opportunity to prevent this situation from happening again due to a drastically different landscape with new resources and new technology. However, this time in American history highlights why an all-of-the-above energy approach is so important and why I have been fighting for it in the United States Congress. Increasing domestic energy production in all forms coupled with promoting new, clean and reliable sources of energy is the only way our great nation will one day be truly energy independent.

An important key to the success of energy independence is nuclear energy. Nuclear energy can shore up our energy needs, in conjunction with other forms of generation, while providing clean, carbon-free power for the country.

Currently, there are 61 nuclear power plants with 99 operating nuclear reactors in the United States. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has stated that as of 2016, nuclear power generates nearly one-fifth of our country's energy, more than all of the renewable forms of energy combined. That figure is significant not only because of its size, but because of its contribution to our baseload energy.

Unlike all other forms of renewable energy, nuclear isn't dependent on weather conditions to be effective. Nuclear energy provides a stable and reliable stream of energy, rain or shine.

In South Australia, they're currently experiencing rolling blackouts because their energy infrastructure has become increasingly reliant on renewable energy that isn't able to meet demand during the transition. Nuclear energy, which is absent from Australia, could help to alleviate some of that burden.

There is also the national security aspect of maintaining a strong and competitive nuclear energy capability. As the United States debates the future of nuclear energy, China and Russia continue to gobble up contracts around the globe, spreading their influence through economic cooperation.

Right now, they are constructing nearly 30 nuclear units, further establishing their roles as dominant entities in the nuclear sector. Recently, China signed deals with Sudan, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Argentina and Great Britain while Russia has customers stretching from Hungary to Vietnam. Their ability to guide and influence the nuclear technology being used on multiple continents runs contrary to what the United States has been trying to build with our allies for decades.

When I recently visited Eastern Europe, they explained how some countries are heavily energy dependent on Russia. It is unbelievable with as cold as it gets in these countries, they are reliant on the will of the Russians for energy and heat.

Nuclear energy is also, by design, extremely resilient. The recent events of Hurricane Harvey showcased that in the midst of the hurricane, the nuclear plant at the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company outside of Houston continued to operate as intended. As other forms of generation in the region had to seize operations, the nuclear plant's design, operational procedures, and safety protocols allowed it to continue supplying power to a region that was desperately in need of it. These plants are designed with extensive input and review processes to withstand natural disasters, attacks and any other events that could befall a facility.

Renewable energy has a role in our energy development and overall strategy, but it cannot manage the demand of the United States electrical grid. Nuclear energy, through an all-of-the-above energy approach, will help to provide a path for energy independence and energy stability for our nation. Without it, we are bound to face challenges in generating enough capacity while simultaneously ceding ground to our competitors around the world.

Now is not the time to turn our backs on a proven and safe source of energy, but to embrace our options and work together to keep the United States in a position to work collaboratively with other nations around the world.

Earl L. "Buddy" Carter represents the First District of Georgia in the United States Congress and is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

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