Obama Neglects Nuclear in State of the Union

From World Nuclear News

US President Barack Obama clearly acknowledged the threat of climate change and the pressing need to do something about it in his annual state of the union address. He highlighted the potential for solar, wind and even natural gas – but nuclear power received not a single mention.

In a speech that also covered many aspects of American life such as taxation, health, education and immigration he urged increased investment in science, innovation and manufacturing to help the country become a “magnet” for high-tech jobs. No area held more promise for this, he noted, than “investments in American energy” which provide opportunity for growth in the face of climate change.

However, only certain energy technologies were deemed worthy of mention in this regard – namely wind, solar and natural gas. Obama enthused that half of all new installed capacity in 2012 was wind energy, while solar “gets cheaper by the year”. Natural gas was hailed primarily as ushering in a new era of energy independence for which the administration would “keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”

Noteworthy was the absence of any mention of nuclear or hydropower – the country’s two largest sources of low carbon electricity providing approximately 20% and 10% of electricity respectively. The absence of nuclear stands out as remarkable given its unique deployability and that the USA pioneered the early development of the technology. The government continues to invest in the research of advanced nuclear concepts such as small modular reactors, while US vendors are actively selling their designs at home and overseas. Last year saw the start of construction work at four new units – the first to receive approval  in about 30 years.

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