Tennessee is leading the way in nuclear energy development

Published 10:31 am Friday, July 14, 2023

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Tennessee just took another step towards clean, reliable energy for its citizens. 
Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order in May establishing the Tennessee Nuclear Energy Advisory Council, a board of legislators and industry experts that will focus on removing barriers and finding opportunities for nuclear energy development in the state. This comes on the heels of Gov. Lee’s State of the State Address where he proposed a “Nuclear Fast Track” fund of $50 million to incentivize nuclear development and job growth in Tennessee. These two steps are massive strides in securing Tennessee’s energy independence and sustainability in the coming decades.
Long viewed as the “boogeyman” of energy sources, nuclear energy has proven to be one of the safest and cleanest sources we have available, with lower greenhouse gas emissions and deaths by either accident or air pollution compared to nearly all other energy sources. Nuclear energy’s efficiency is similarly unmatched, with a standard plant producing nearly double the power of your average coal plant and over three times that of a solar or wind plant. While renewable energy has the distinct advantage of not requiring a finite fuel source, our governor put it best, stating that, “there is no long-term national strategy that doesn’t include nuclear energy.”
The Nuclear Energy Advisory Council and Nuclear Fast Track fund are part of Tennessee’s continuing strategy to secure safe, reliable energy for all its citizens. Since the early 1980s, the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant has been safely humming along, providing power to over a million homes each day for decades. When combined with its sister plant at Watts Bar, nuclear energy covers over 40% of the state’s energy generation. With further expansion of nuclear energy in the state, utilizing emerging technologies such as small modular reactors along with maintenance and renovation of our existing plants, more of our grid can move away from fossil fuels and toward a source that secures our independence and prosperity while protecting our health and natural resources.
Nuclear energy is not only good for the grid, but it also is important for workforce development. The United States nuclear industry affects almost 150,000 careers, and each nuclear reactor employs 500 to 800 workers. The nuclear energy industry expands beyond your typical engineer; it relies on skilled trade workers, professionals like lawyers and accountants, and scientists working in the field. By expanding the nuclear energy industry in Tennessee, we have the opportunity to create hundreds of much-needed jobs in rural communities. 
This nuclear expansion comes at the perfect time in Tennessee. We have learned that the development of Tennessee’s future workforce is critical to its success. With the announcement of Ford’s Blue Oval City, an electric vehicle plant outside Memphis, millions of dollars are being poured into technical education throughout the state. These reinvented technical education programs are largely focused on advanced energy careers, which include nuclear technologies. We have a unique opportunity to deploy our workforce in such careers.
— The Nashville Tennessean

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