Nuclear Energy's Role in American Independence

As the last fireworks have faded from this year’s Fourth of July celebrations, we are presented with the perfect time to reflect on the holiday’s meaning beyond just one day. As a father and grandfather, it is a reminder of all the benefits our nation’s independence offers future generations—an independence that hinges on energy security. As an environmental engineering professor, I’m also struck by the relationships between our country’s freedom, national security and energy dominance, which, at its core, depends on nuclear energy.

From our homes to our military installations, from my home state of Georgia all the way to Washington State, nuclear power is a safe, emissions-free and homegrown energy source that generates power 24/7 and supplies approximately one-fifth of the United States’ total electricity. The reliability and the massive amount of electricity it generates means nuclear energy plays a significant role in keeping our energy grid resilient – a necessity for facilities housing our military personnel, for new technologies and for institutions responsible for national security. Additionally, nuclear energy, coupled with renewables, helps to keep energy prices low.

Over the course of our nation’s history, our nuclear energy dominance has also positioned us as a global leader in nuclear technologies, nonproliferation and defense. With more nuclear energy facilities than any nation in the world, we have continually paved the way for other countries seeking clean, reliable energy to pursue their own economic hopes and dreams—as we did in America. Furthermore, each time we work with a developing country to provide nuclear technology, we create stronger geopolitical relationships that align with the national security interests of the United States. As other countries like Russia and China expand their nuclear fleets and deploy their own reactor technologies - often without the same nonproliferation and safety standards as the U.S. - the importance of our nuclear energy leadership to our own national security becomes more apparent and more urgent.

From our communities to the grounds where brave Americans train day in and day out to protect this nation, our energy security and nuclear energy dominance keeps the lights on and sustains our global leadership. As we move on from the Fourth of July, we cannot forget the importance of safeguarding our independence through investing in and protecting our nuclear energy dominance, allowing us to remain energy independent.

Dr. David Gattie is an associate professor of engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia and a member of the Advocacy Council of Nuclear Matters.