Climate change is shifting state views on nuclear power

In many of the states with the nation’s most aggressive climate goals, officials are investing millions of dollars to save the power source that was long the No. 1 target of many environmental activists: nuclear plants.

“We are moving expeditiously toward a clean energy mix, but that is going to take a while,” said Joe Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. “We can’t build renewables fast enough, and people still need energy. Nukes are an important interim part of the mix. ”

The Byron Generating Station is seen through a cornfield in Byron, Illinois, on Sept.  7, 2021.

Despite long-standing safety concerns, many state leaders and some environmental groups say climate change poses a greater risk than reactors, and that preserving nuclear power will prevent an expansion of fossil fuel-powered plants. Nuclear plants provide about 19% of the nation’s electricity, far more than wind and solar combined. Some activists counter that state investments in nuclear plants are coming at the expense of renewable projects, slowing the clean energy transition.

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