We must develop and maintain, and in some cases expand, carbon-free electricity resources. That means wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, battery storage, pumped hydro and especially conservation.
WHEN Gov. Jay Inslee asked me in 2013 if I would sit on the Energy Northwest executive board as one of his three appointments to that board, I did not have to think twice. Not only did the mission of EN to provide reliable, cost-effective, environmentally responsible power strike me as being the right fit for the region, but EN’s largest project, the Columbia Generating Station nuclear-energy facility, employs nearly 1,000 professionals, including hundreds of craft workers.
The recent action by the Seattle City Council to denigrate, even deny, the contributions of nuclear energy to this state, now and in the future, makes no sense to me. The council voted to oppose the use of new nuclear-energy resources by the city’s utility, after taking one-sided testimony disparaging Columbia Generating Station’s safety, value to the region and environmental benefits.
First, nuclear energy is a baseload, or 24/7, resource. Power-grid stability relies on these types of resources to keep the lights on as the wind fluctuates and day turns into night. Without full-time resources, the power would not be there to ensure our hospitals, schools, homes and businesses can function as we expect them to.
Second, nuclear energy is a carbon-free source of electricity. The goal of governments from Washington, D.C., to Olympia, and around the world, is to reduce our carbon footprint from electricity generation. That means we need more carbon-free resources, not fewer.
We must develop and maintain, and in some cases expand, the carbon-free-electricity resources in our portfolio. That means wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, demand response, battery storage, pumped hydro and especially conservation.
The council’s action, based on information only from anti-nuclear-energy groups, moves us backward, not forward. Why would one make a decision, especially about the future electricity mix of a city, without first considering all points of view, including experts in the field?
Sadly, we have seen this environmental backsliding in every instance where nuclear-energy plants have closed, be it in California, Vermont or Germany. The carbon-free electricity from those plants was replaced by fossil sources, either natural gas or coal.
Nationally, nuclear energy provides 63 percent of the carbon-free electricity generated in the U.S. The next largest source is hydroelectricity (20 percent), followed by wind (15 percent). These resources essentially make up our portfolio in the Northwest — we need it all.
There is another aspect where nuclear energy has them all beat: safety. American nuclear-energy facilities are among the safest places to work, not only in the utility industry, but in all industries. The oversight provided by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission and industry peers is second to none in the world.
Columbia Generating Station, and nuclear energy, has a firm place in our region’s future. Northwest organizations are developing new technologies that will yield even safer designs for new nuclear-energy facilities. Future plants, perhaps located in the Northwest, but certainly elsewhere, would provide thousands of jobs for engineers, operators, craft workers and others. They would help fulfill the promise of a clean-energy future that delivers both clean air and family-wage jobs. That is what we should be working toward, together.