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Luria Wants U.S. to Back Nuclear Power Considerations at COP26

October 28, 2021 by Kate Michael
Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., talks about nuclear power at Third Way event during a discussion at its Fastest Path to Zero virtual series.

WASHINGTON — When parties come together at the 26th U.N. Global Climate Conference —  COP26 — later this month, nuclear power is set to be highlighted as it has never been previously at a global climate change convention, and one American lawmaker couldn’t be happier about it. 

Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., has been a vocal advocate for nuclear power as a key part of the climate solution and wants to see nuclear power as part of the mix to get to Net Zero (greenhouse gas emissions) by 2050.

“Leading up to the Biden administration coming in, I was really excited to see — when talking about climate — the word nuclear,” Luria told the DC-based public policy organization Third Way during a discussion at its Fastest Path to Zero virtual series. 

Luria has specific knowledge of nuclear, having attended the United States Naval Nuclear Power School and running nuclear reactors on aircraft carriers during her time in the Navy. She explained that nuclear is an exciting field where there are many advancements happening and stressed the importance of keeping nuclear at the forefront when the world thinks about clean energy.

Indeed, as nations gather in Scotland to accelerate action toward the Paris Agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change there will be discussion around policy commitments to specific decarbonization technologies that include nuclear.

This comes on the heels of a recent report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency ahead of the summit arguing for nuclear as a critical means to achieve climate goals while ensuring a stable and resilient energy source in tandem with other energy options like wind and solar.

Luria pointed out that one of the reasons her state of Virginia is on track for its energy goals is its robust nuclear power, as well as offshore wind plants. While close to a third of electricity in Virginia is generated by nuclear plants, nuclear accounts for 95% of the state’s carbon-free resources, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute and Dominion Power.

“It’s a combination,” Luria insisted. “It’s going to take all of these things. All of these new technologies, and the nuclear that we already have.”

“The wind doesn’t always blow. The sun doesn’t always shine. There’s a base load that needs to be maintained, and there are safe and effective ways to do that with nuclear power.”

Nuclear opponents agree that it produces lower-carbon energy, but claim nuclear-fission energy comes with great risk, citing accidents, potential negative health effects, national security concerns, and even cost overruns. But proponents claim nuclear energy’s air quality benefits, as well as its potential to drive economic growth and create skilled jobs in a number of sectors outweigh some possible pitfalls along the way to meeting energy needs and climate goals. 

As for the upcoming COP26, the U.S. hasn’t yet issued any formal statements on a commitment to nuclear energy. Russia and China have pushed back on engagement with the conference, though they have been moving forward with plans for an expanded role for nuclear energy in their respective countries. EU nations are divided, with France and the Czech Republic, for example, strongly in favor of nuclear energy, and Germany and Austria opposed.

Kate can be reached at [email protected]

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