Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm says she's ‘very bullish’ on nuclear energy

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In a video interview with Yahoo News' Senior Climate Editor Ben Adler at the COP26 summit, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the Biden administration is "very bullish" on building new nuclear reactors.

Video Transcript

BEN ADLER: So how do you assure for instance, your partners internationally that the net zero world initiative won't be dismantled by the second term of Donald Trump?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM: Well, one can never be sure, right, that the policies that you put in place won't be amended by a future Congress. However, if we are able to get for example, demonstration projects and the technologies that we're talking about in the ground and ready to go, that's much more difficult to uproot. So it's why we've got to accelerate.

I mean, our hair should be on fire because the planet is on fire no matter what, but we will be accelerating the deployment of these technologies so that we can, in fact, get them in the ground, get the solar panels up, get the grid investments that are necessary to add the renewable energy capacity that we have to. We're going to do all of that on steroids over the next three years.

BEN ADLER: One last question is nuclear. Something that probably a lot of people don't know, in fact, Rick Perry famously didn't know before he became your predecessor in this role. Most of what department of energy does is actually safeguard the nuclear stockpile in reactors and regulate nuclear. What is the administration's position on new nuclear, which is obviously a controversial issue on the left because it's clean but also can be dangerous and environmentally detrimental.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM: Well, we are very bullish on these advanced nuclear reactors. We have in fact, invested a lot of money in the research and development of those. We are very supportive of that. Half of the United States' clean power now-- when I say clean, I'm talking about net zero carbon emissions-- is through the nuclear fleet. If you look at the overall power, it's about 20%. Globally, 29% of the clean power is nuclear.

These advanced nuclear reactors and the existing fleet are safe. We have the gold standard of regulation in the United States. The question is, because they do not generate and they're baseload power. Really, the Holy Grail is to identify clean baseload power, clean baseload power. Nuclear is dispatchable clean baseload power. So we want to be able to bring more on.

Now, the kick is that it is expensive. Nuclear is more expensive, and so we want to make sure that these smaller modular reactors are less expensive. There have been a number of them, a couple of them that are on a sort of pilot demonstration mode.

For example, TerraPower in Wyoming actually put a small advanced reactor adjacent to a retired coal plant. And because the infrastructure is there to carry the power away, it made perfect sense. And those coal miners who were working at the plant, now have an opportunity for a job at the nuclear facility. So we're excited about nuclear actually.