Clean, green, affordable and reliable. Former New Jersey Governor, former EPA administrator and current co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (CASEnergy) Christine Todd Whitman espoused the benefits of nuclear power in her dialogue with more than 200 students, faculty, staff and industry leaders on Thursday, Nov. 14, at UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC). Alumnus and North Carolina Representative Mike Hager, who serves on several legislative environmental and energy committees, also attended the forum.
Whitman endorsed an “all of the above” approach to energy, a broad portfolio that includes nuclear power in order to remain flexible and meet future energy demand. She applauded North Carolina as a leader, ranking fifth in the U.S. for net electricity generated from nuclear power, with 32 percent of its portfolio being nuclear.
Despite North Carolina’s energy mix including nuclear power, Whitman cited multiple challenges in further public and political acceptance, chief among them the decades-long “hangover” from disasters such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, as well as the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011; she said the vulnerability of the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi have been addressed for the design of new reactors. She noted that people also often confuse nuclear arms with nuclear power, and that education is the key to dispelling misconceptions and increasing its adoption. Whitman also holds public officials responsible and advocates for a national nuclear energy policy. She acknowledged that the current low cost of natural gas is also “undercutting the appetite for nuclear power.”
Whitman had the opportunity to tour EPIC before her presentation. She spoke with students about their senior design projects while making stops at the High Bay Lab, AREVA Power Systems Teaching Lab, Environmental Lab, Duke Energy Smart Grid Lab, Geoenvironmental Energy Lab and the HP Energy Innovation Lab.
CASEnergy Coalition is a national grassroots organization that supports the increased use of nuclear energy. Its mission is to advance the national dialogue about energy options, focusing on the value nuclear energy provides to America’s economy and the environment. Whitman co-founded the coalition in 2006.