Today, we’re celebrating our second birthday! We’ve come a long way, and it wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing Collective members. Over the past year, we increased our staff by 100%. And since our founding, we have added six full-time Collective members with expertise in policy analysis, strategic communications, environmental science, energy justice, and Indigenous people’s law.
Refresher on Our Origin Story
We were founded around the idea that nuclear energy is an indispensable tool to help our country and global community reach ambitious climate goals. Our founders, Suzy Baker, Rachel Slaybaugh, and Jessica Lovering, identified a need to build political power on the left in support of nuclear power. There had been impressive innovation for nuclear technologies, but there was an equal need for innovations on the process side—particularly around community engagement. They believed that a comprehensive social science agenda could accelerate the inclusive and equitable commercialization and adoption of advanced nuclear.
So on August 11, 2020, we embarked on a mission to make the progressive case for nuclear energy as part of a broader climate agenda. We have endeavored to achieve this through the cultivation of community support, collaboration with clean energy researchers, meaningful discourse and bridge-building with environmental justice organizations, and outreach and advocacy throughout the government. This is a tall order, and we’ve only just begun, so let’s take a look at what we’ve accomplished this past year.
- Land-Use Intensity of Electricity Production and Tomorrow’s Energy (July 2022): Jessica Lovering published a study with co-authors Marian Swain, Linus Blomqvist, and Rebecca R. Hernandez in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. They performed the first comprehensive study of the land occupied by power generation across all technologies using real-world data and found substantial variation both across and within technologies.
- Host Communities and Nuclear Energy: Benefits for Some, Risks for Others (June 2022): Cleo Schroer’s analysis found the benefits of hosting nuclear power plants tend to go to whiter and wealthier communities, whereas the riskier activities like uranium mining and milling have been concentrated in poorer and less-educated areas and communities of color.
- Opportunities for Coal Communities Through Nuclear Energy: An Early Look (December 2021): Jessica Lovering, Jackie Toth, and Suzy Baker explored opportunities for repowering retiring coal power plants in the U.S. with small modular reactors.
- We collaborated with other climate and energy organizations to help inform the standup of the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, a new agency at the U.S. Department of Energy that will support new, climate-friendly energy sources in proving their potential.
- We published a guest essay from analysts River Bennett and Alex Gilbert assessing nuclear's ability to bridge the gap between labor unions and Green New Deal supporters.
- Gender Champion in Nuclear Policy: We became an official Gender Champion in Nuclear Policy, committing to support representation, develop a code of conduct for respectful behavior at our events, and ensure single-author credits for women and people of color employed at GEC.
- Regulatory Engagement: We submitted comments on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s review of its environmental justice guidelines, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council’s January 2022 public meeting, the Office of Nuclear Energy’s consent-based siting process for identifying a location for interim nuclear waste storage, and the Council on Environmental Quality’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool.
- Film Club: We hosted our first film club and watched the powerful documentary Return of Navajo Boy. We were joined by a special guest, Dr. Tommy Rock, to discuss the legacy and ongoing struggles of uranium mining contamination in the Navajo Nation.
Outlook for the Future & The Inflation Reduction Act
With the likely passage of the Inflation Reduction Act this week, policymakers are rightly making sure that both existing and new nuclear energy will contribute toward reducing emissions and powering communities with low-carbon energy. We’ve seen a lot of exciting developments in advanced nuclear since our founding, from the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program getting up and running to agreements between small modular reactor developer NuScale, the U.S. government, Romania, and Poland to cooperate on joint nuclear construction projects.
Then in 2021, reactor developer TerraPower selected a community with an imminent coal plant retirement in Wyoming for the site for its demonstration reactor—potentially the first U.S. reactor project that could truly reflect a just transition for a frontline community. This project underlines the importance of our work in showing how these projects can proceed justly with community interests centered.
We’re two years in, and we’re only just beginning to make the progressive case for nuclear energy.
We invite you to chip in $20 if you are able: