Natalia M. Best
- Natalia M. Best is a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard officer and previous resident of Englewood, Tennessee.
As an East Tennessean now residing just outside of Washington DC, I’m very proud of my home state’s contributions to clean energy.
Tennessee is the home of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory— also known as the Tennessee Valley Authority — and plenty of outstanding institutions of higher education that are leading the way to create sustainable, zero emission energy.
Partnerships between these institutions enabled the development and distribution of nuclear fission as a clean and sustainable energy source. These partnerships continue to produce technology and drive innovation from which the entire world will benefit.
The significance of these contributions were brought into focus this month at the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow. The U.N. Secretary-General admitted that nuclear power will be apart of the solution.
The White House and the State Department delivered some other long overdue announcements that strongly support nuclear energy’s value proposition in the fight against climate change.
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The impact that nuclear energy can have on climate change
Tennesseans are not immune to the dangers posed by climate changes: the 17 inches Hurricane Ida dumped on the state in August and the heart wrenching losses from April’s Nashville experiences record flooding are just a few reminders that we will all be impacted by the effects of climate change.
If nations and states do not increasingly commit to resilient, zero emissions energy alternatives like nuclear fission, extreme weather events like these could become more frequent, more severe or both.
While California and New York close and dismantle their nuclear power plants and increasingly turn to fragile, less reliable and less sustainable forms of clean energy like solar and wind, Tennessee’s two nuclear plants contributed 47% of the state’s electricity in 2020.
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This enabled the state to increasingly phase out other forms of energy with high carbon emissions while balancing renewable energy inputs.
Admittedly, nuclear energy is not a silver bullet for ensuring clean and reliable energy or solving climate change. Nuclear energy is expensive and is associated with unfortunate but preventable accidents caused by human errors.
We are still in search for a solution to long-term waste storage and disposal. However, when compared with all the existing clean energy alternatives, nuclear is the best, the most reliable and the safest large-scale clean energy solution we have for now. At least until the Oakridge National Laboratory develops a better solution.
Given nuclear energy’s overdue recognition coming out of COP26, I’m hopeful more states will follow Tennessee’s lead by prioritizing and incorporating nuclear energy into their electric grids. I applaud my home state for resolutely forging the path for clean energy.
Natalia M. Best is a commander in the U.S. Coast Guard Officer currently enrolled as a graduate student at National War College in Washington, D.C. She is from Englewood, Tennessee.