Skip to main content

Election Day: A Voter Scorecard on Nuclear Energy

Election Day A Voter Scorecard on Nuclear EnergyWith Election Day just one week away, NEI Nuclear Notes is here to provide readers with a handy voter scorecard on nuclear energy. We sent a survey to all 69 Democratic and Republican candidates running for the U.S. Senate (Mark Pryor [D-AR] is running unopposed) and asked these three questions:

1. Does your candidate support the use of nuclear energy as a source of carbon-free electricity in the U.S.?
2. Does your candidate support the expansion of nuclear energy in the United States?
3. Does your candidate support the expansion of nuclear energy in his/her state?

We received completed questionnaires from 31 candidates. Some key takeaways:
  • 30 candidates were supportive of the use of nuclear energy in the U.S.
  • 30 candidates supported the expansion of nuclear energy in their state.
  • Democratic and Republican Senate candidates from: Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Wyoming were in favor expanding nuclear power in their states.
  • Challengers submitted 19 questionnaires, incumbents 12.
So how'd your candidate fare? Did they make the list?
Alabama - Jeff Sessions (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Alaska - Ted Stevens (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Colorado - Mark Udall (D): Yes, Yes, Yes
Georgia - Saxby Chambliss (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Idaho - Larry LaRocco (D): Yes, Yes, Yes
          Jim Risch (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Illinois - Steve Sauerberg (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Iowa - Christopher Reed (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Kansas - Jim Slattery (D): Yes, Yes, Yes
          Pat Roberts (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Louisiana - Mary Landrieu (D): Yes, Yes, Yes
Massachusetts - Jeff Beatty (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Michigan - Jack Hoogendyk (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Mississippi - Roger Wicker (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Nebraska - Scott Kleeb (D): Yes, Yes, Yes
          Mike Johanns (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
New Hampshire - John Sununu (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
New Jersey - Dick Zimmer (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
New Mexico - Steve Pearce (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
North Carolina - Kay Hagan (D): Yes, Qualified Yes*, Qualified Yes*
          Elizabeth Dole (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Oklahoma - Jim Inhofe (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Oregon - Gordon Smith (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Rhode Island - Bob Tingle (R) No No No
South Carolina - Bob Conley (D): Yes, Yes, Yes
Tennessee - Lamar Alexander (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Virginia - Jim Gilmore (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
West Virginia - Jay Wolfe (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
Wyoming - Chris Rothfuss (D): Yes, Yes, Yes
          Michael Enzi (R): Yes, Yes, Yes
          Nick Carter (D): Yes, Yes, Yes

* "If we can find ways to reduce costs, improve safety and find a practical solution for dealing with spent nuclear rods, yes."

[Incumbents are in bold.]
In lieu of completing the questionnaire, several candidates sent letters of support. A few excerpts:

Mark Warner
"Nuclear power should be expanded and should play a role in addressing our energy and environmental needs. Nuclear power generates one-fifth of America's electricity. It holds the potential to provide clean, relatively inexpensive power and lessen our dependence on fossil fuels at a time when prices are rising.

France gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear power and Japan is aggressively building new reactors. If they can do it, so can we. While safety around using nuclear power has improved greatly, we need to invest in research to find a long term solution to storing nuclear waste. And as we look to increase our nuclear energy, nuclear plant security also must be a top priority."

Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
"I am proud to represent the people of South Carolina, and I believe that my record on the issues is the best resource for voters as they make decisions about their support. As such, I choose not participate in surveys or pledges.

However, I am a strong advocate for a national energy policy that promotes new technology to meet our growing energy demands and to protect the environment. I believe a new energy policy will help ensure that we continue to enjoy the abundant and comparatively inexpensive power on which our homes and businesses have come to rely. Nuclear power must be a part of the solution. One element of bipartisan energy legislation I have cosponsored allows the recycling of spent nuclear fuel which is an essential step forward to ensure we can build more nuclear plants. I look forward to working with organizations such as yours to develop comprehensive energy legislation which both respects our natural environment and provides for our growing energy demands."


Anonymous said…
There is a mistake. The one "no" reply from Rhode Island is not a Democrat as you say, but a Republican.

Robert Tingle
Anonymous said…
Well, I knew I wasn't going to vote against Kay Hagan. I wonder what her qualified yeses mean. She's an idiot. And Mark Tingle of Rhode Island? Another 1960s hippie drop out?

I am gratified, though, at the turnaround in the Dem party with regard to nuclear energy. I won't vote for a one of their candidates, but maybe there's hope for them after all.
kb said…
@ anonymous, thanks for the heads up. Tingle's party affiliation has been fixed. My apologies. I made the error transferring the data from my spreadsheet. How could I mess up on the casino pit boss who's running 52 points behind Jack Reed?
kb said…
@ anonymous #2. Hagan's qualified "yeses" include this language: "If we can find ways to reduce costs, improve safety and find a practical solution for dealing with spent nuclear rods, yes."
Anonymous said…
I presume that in most of these races, there is a Democrat and a Republican running. Looking at this list, there are a lot of states where the Democratic candidate has ignored this survey. It's interesting to see these cases where politicians do not want to get themselves pinned down by taking a position. This seems to be a Democratic issue for nuclear energy. In the old days, many would have just said "no". A sign of progress?
Anonymous said…
The Hagan response is the new Democrat "no." McCain would call them "extreme environmentalists." With the new no, you can say no without actually saying no. It is like saying that I support clean coal just as long as there are zero CO2 emissions from the plant. You cannot get here from there. Without Democrat support for Yucca and/or GNEP / something similar, you cannot get to new nuclear from there.
Rod Adams said…
@anonymous - Not surprisingly, I disagree. We have operated a large quantity of nuclear power plants for several decades without either Yucca or GNEP. We do not need either to build new plants and operate them for many more decades to come.

Please do not put the benefits of nuclear fission power at risk by making such footballs a litmus test. Nukes should answer the qualified yeses with cheers and positive statements like - "If you like safe, clean, economical nuclear power, then you like nuclear power as it exists already. Let's move."
Anonymous said…
"We have operated a large quantity of nuclear power plants for several decades without either Yucca or GNEP." IGNORING the buildup of spent fuel. Reprocess or not, but you can't do that forever.
d kosloff said…
Nobody in the nuclear industry has been ignoring spent fuel. It has been safely stored for decades. It has also been safely transported.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.


The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.

What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…