As Nuclear Struggles, A New Generation Of Engineers Is Motivated By Climate Change via NPR

The number of people graduating with nuclear engineering degrees has more than tripled since a low point in 2001, and many are passionate about their motivation.


Fein is among those who argue that nuclear plants should be recognized as clean energy, and paid for the public benefit of not emitting greenhouse gasses or other pollutants. It’s a strategy that’s worked in other states: Illinois, New York and — most recently — New Jersey.

David Fein, senior vice president of State Governmental and Regulatory Affairs at Exelon, which owns Three Mile Island Unit 1.

Jeff Brady/NPR

In Pennsylvania’s capitol in Harrisburg, opponents of new subsidies include anti-nuclear activist Eric Epstein with the watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert.

“If you consider nuclear green then you have to ignore high-level radioactive waste,” he says.

The federal government still doesn’t have permanent storage for that waste, and Epstein says there are the environmental costs of uranium mining to consider as well.

Others question giving nuclear plants public money that could be used for renewable energy instead.


Ann Bisconti does opinion research for the industry and says a lot fewer people oppose nuclear energy now than just after the Three Mile Island accident.

“People have moved, very much, into middle positions — they’re very mushy on nuclear energy,” Bisconti says. And she says that creates an opportunity to win them over by talking about the need for nuclear to limit the effects of climate change.

“You can’t get there without nuclear in the fuel mix,” says Chris Wolfe, who works as a generation planning engineer at South Carolina Electric and Gas and is on the board of of North American Young Generation in Nuclear.


Molly Samuel of WABE contributed to this report.

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