Nuclear Energy: A Potent Tool for Carbon-Free Energy and Chemical Conversion

By: Luke Soule

Like many people in my age group, mitigating anthropogenic CO2 pollution is one of the most important technical challenges in the near future. As a graduate student, I have intimately researched and worked on R&D related to this issue for five years.

I joined the Nuclear Matters President's Circle because, through my research, I found that nuclear science is a powerful tool to meet many of the challenges related to seeding out CO2 emissions in our energy generation and chemical conversion processes. Nuclear advocacy, particularly for additional R&D funding and support of commercial nuclear energy interests, is important to realizing our goals for a clean future.

The case for utilizing nuclear reactions for society is straightforward. Cherenkov radiation produced in a nuclear reactor gives off a breathtakingly beautiful pale blue light that, suffice to say, seems angelic. Nuclear reactions are the most energy-dense chemical reactions known to science. While we have made impressive technical strides towards harnessing this energy, such as the construction of nuclear fission-based reactors and prototype fusion reactors, there is a still much untapped opportunity that can be harnessed through nuclear science.

As a Ph.D. candidate at the Georgia Institute of Technology studying materials science, I have a rare opportunity to be co-located with the only two newly-built AP-1000 nuclear reactors in the U.S. The successful construction and safe operation of the two new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant will have lasting impacts both locally by providing reliable, carbon-free energy for one million Georgia homes and businesses, nationally by supporting and providing insight into the active construction of nuclear power plants and globally by anchoring the United States as a leader in nuclear technology development.

Nuclear power has an impressive track-record with the highest capacity factor of all current power sources and the ability to avoid the release of 506 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. each year. This is why nuclear advocates must continually support nuclear chemistry R&D and promote STEM education for a diverse generation of young people. 

If you too believe in nuclear power’s role in a carbon-free energy future for the generations to come, raise your voice. Join me and Nuclear Matters in advocating for smart policies that recognize the benefits and the potential of nuclear carbon-free energy.  

Luke Soule is a Ph.D. Materials Science student at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Nuclear Matters advocate.