Source: Aiken Standard | Editorial |October 17, 2015

By most any metric, the U.S. should be a leader in energy efficiency, and the nuclear industry plays a key role in fulfilling that objective.

The contributions of nuclear power are evident and are set to be celebrated this week as part of National Nuclear Science Week. The thousands of people in Aiken County and our surrounding region who have careers in the nuclear industry can certainly attest to its importance to the community and the economy.

Also, a significant portion of the Department of Energy’s budget is devoted to advancing America’s nuclear missions, nuclear security and cleaning up the legacy of past nuclear arms development. A lot of this work is done here in our community at Savannah River Site, which is both a regional and national asset in environmental stewardship, innovation, energy independence and national security.

For six decades, the Site has cultivated a history that’s made it one of the key nuclear facilities in the country, as well as an economic driver in our region. That history, started as an effort tied to the Cold War, is now being used to build upon current environmental and nonproliferation programs, as well as other future initiatives.

Particularly as of late, the rising demand for clean energy and concerns about climate change have rightfully generated a growing interest in nuclear power. In the future, nuclear power could be a key component in our national energy portfolio, which could also include wind, solar and biomass resources. The Savannah River National Lab at the Site is already helping to facilitate these renewable energy sources through the work of the lab’s approximately 900 scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff. These efforts were recognized by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who said the laboratory has become “one I rely on very heavily” during his 2014 visit to the Site. He added it has been “extremely innovative in looking at our environmental challenges and saving money, time and schedule through innovation.” This continued recognition will prove vital as innovation continues in the nuclear industry, as well as the energy sector as a whole.

There thankfully exists a needed, broad-based perspective and agenda related to the capabilities of nuclear. One of the industry’s greatest attractions is that it reliably produces a lot of electricity without producing carbon dioxide emissions. As the U.S. works to fulfill the global demand for reliable, affordable and carbon-free energy, nuclear needs to play a role in this mission.

Today, nuclear accounts for more than 80 percent of carbon-free electricity. In South Carolina, for instance, the state’s four existing nuclear power plants supplied 54 percent of the state’s net electricity generation in 2014. Two new reactors are also under construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County.

Beyond these initiatives, the U.S. has also been careful to consider the nuclear fuel cycle, both from a national security perspective and energy security perspective. Savannah River Site and the Department of Energy have been instrumental in being deeply involved in these efforts.

All of these initiatives help to showcase why the nuclear industry matters now and into the future.