By: Sandra Stewart
Embracing both hydro and nuclear generation sources is a critical step in creating an affordable, sustainable, carbon-free energy portfolio. These technologies have been working hand-in-hand with other generation sources for decades to power the country. In many discussions about addressing climate change, we tend to focus on the technologies with the best advertising campaign as opposed to those that have carried us to this point. In order to combat climate change, we must focus on building, developing, and sustaining generation sources that are non-carbon emitting and reliable. Technology neutral is the path forward and Washington State has officially chosen that path through the passing of Senate Bill 5116.
As a nuclear professional and Washington resident, this is exciting news. The state is recognizing in legislation that my colleagues and I are vital components for helping Washington, and the US as a whole, do our part to preserve our way of life. I chose the nuclear industry as a career because I believe in the industry. My father was a reactor operator and I grew up in the shadow of Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Glen Rose, Texas. It was the life blood of that community, providing skilled labor and professional jobs with great pay and a strong safety culture. At the same time, it was providing Texas with reliable, emission free energy.
With each closure of a nuclear facility in the world, we have seen carbon emissions and energy costs increase coupled with a loss in high quality jobs and tax revenues. Vermont Yankee was not replaced with an equivalent solar or wind farm. The laid off employees did not find new jobs in local renewables and the tax revenue has not been replaced.
By embracing Columbia Generating Station as a critical part of Washington’s Clean Energy Portfolio, we avoid the same mistakes made by other states and countries who prematurely shuttered nuclear generation capabilities. Technology neutral legislation opens the door to existing and new nuclear technology. With these forward thinking actions, we can say we are truly committed to a cleaner environment, skilled jobs, and a strong economy.
Sandra Stewart is a maintenance program specialist at Energy Northwest. She is a member of the Nuclear Matters Nuclear Energy Ambassador Program (NEAP).