It took five decades, but the Democratic Party has finally changed its stance on nuclear energy. In its recently released party platform, the Democrats say they favor a “technology-neutral” approach that includes “all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.” Robert Bryce writes via Forbes: That statement marks the first time since 1972 that the Democratic Party has said anything positive in its platform about nuclear energy. The change in policy is good — and long overdue — news for the American nuclear-energy sector and for everyone concerned about climate change. The Democrats’ new position means that for the first time since Richard Nixon was in the White House, both the Republican and Democratic parties are officially on record in support of nuclear energy. That’s the good news.
About a decade ago, a high-ranking official at the Department of Energy told me that a big problem with nuclear energy is that it needs bipartisan support in Congress. That wasn’t happening, he said, because “Democrats are pro-government and anti-nuclear. Republicans are pro-nuclear and anti-government.” That partisan divide is apparent in the polling data. A 2019 Gallup poll found that 65 percent of Republicans strongly favored nuclear energy but only 42 percent of Democrats did so. The last time the Democratic Party’s platform contained a positive statement about nuclear energy was in 1972, when the party said it supported “greater research and development” into “unconventional energy sources” including solar, geothermal, and “a variety of nuclear power possibilities to design clean breeder fission and fusion techniques.”
Since then, the Democratic Party has either ignored or professed outright opposition to nuclear energy. In 2016, the party’s platform said climate change “poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures.” The platform contained 31 uses of the word “nuclear” including “nuclear proliferation,” “nuclear weapon,” and “nuclear annihilation.” It did not contain a single mention of “nuclear energy.” That stance reflected the orthodoxy of the climate activists and environmental groups who have dominated the Democratic Party’s discussion on energy for decades. What changed the Democrats’ stance on nuclear? I cannot claim any special knowledge about the drafting of the platform, but it appears that science and basic math finally won out. While vying for their party’s nomination, two prominent Democratic presidential hopefuls — Cory Booker and Andrew Yang — both endorsed nuclear energy. In addition, Joe Biden’s energy plan included a shout-out to nuclear.
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