Securing a sustainable, affordable energy supply for the future is a challenge that faces all Americans. Fortunately, the citizens of Washington have taken a sizeable step in that direction.
On May 23, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission extended the license for the state's Columbia Generating Station by 20 years.
Notably, Gov. Chris Gregoire visited the Columbia Generating Station on May 24. "We're very fortunate to have it right here in our state," she said.
She's right. For a state working hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, maintain economic stability and develop a sound and sustainable energy plan, the 1,200-megawatt Columbia facility is a tremendous asset.
No wonder more than 70 other reactors around the country that have renewed their operating licenses for 20 years. In other words, almost three-quarters of America's nuclear power facilities have renewed their licenses.
The benefits are self-evident: Nuclear energy provides reliable electricity without producing greenhouse gases.
In fact, Washington's use of nuclear energy has helped to prevent 7,000 tons of nitrogen oxide from entering the atmosphere annually. That's like turning off the engines of 366,000 cars (more than 10 percent of all of the cars registered in Washington) for a year.
Nuclear energy helps keep Washington's economy stable. On average, a nuclear energy facility will generate around $430 million in economic output for the surrounding community and nearly $40 million every year in total labor income. What's more, by offering reliable energy at an affordable and predictable cost to businesses and consumers, nuclear power can decrease the financial strain on each of us.
In addition to the energy produced at Columbia Generating Station, Washington can and should explore expanding its nuclear energy potential.
Newer nuclear power-generation technologies, such as small, modular reactors offer distinct benefits and new options for the future.
Because they are smaller than existing reactors, they can be situated in remote locations where there is little to no access to the main power grid, or they can provide process heat to industrial applications.
Plus, they have smaller footprints and at a lower startup cost than full-fledged nuclear power facilities.
On June 12, the Association of Washington Business held its annual Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony as part of its Spring Meeting, giving Washington business leaders an opportunity to focus on the importance of reducing their environmental effects and leveraging clean energy to help achieve that goal. What better way to advance that goal than the renewal of Columbia Generating Station's operating license? What better time to talk about the role of nuclear power in the state's energy future?
Washingtonians should look at Columbia Generating Station's license renewal not as the end in itself, but as the beginning of new dialogue about the opportunities and benefits nuclear energy offers the region.
Let's use this opportunity to revive the conversation around nuclear energy in Washington and to take greater advantage of its economic and environmental benefits for our future.
-- Patrick Moore is the co-chairman of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition and co-founder of Greenpeace. Don Brunell is the president of the Association of Washington Business.