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Might Trump’s Presidency Be Good for Clean Energy?

Posted on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 by Gary Schwendiman
Donald Trump and Dr. Phil in front of Trump Plaza in New York City

There’s no doubt about it, the election results signal major changes, and not necessarily predictable ones. Those of us in the Clean Energy space are, of course, concerned that Mr. Trump is said to be a “climate change denier,” which I take to mean a nonbeliever in global warming.

As a side note, I hope Mr. Trump will read my book before his inauguration so as to get clear on the distinction between “climate change” and “global warming.” The former term simply refers to the natural, constant shifting of the planet’s climate—something quite undeniable—whereas the latter is the man-made warming process underway for the past century—something also hard to deny. These terms regularly get confused in the media, and I make them clear at length in the book.

Back to Trump, though, I was encouraged by this news article I saw suggesting that he might approve a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The radioactive waste from nuclear power plants has to be stored safely, and this is easy to accomplish, but it has been hampered by public perceptions to the contrary. Throughout the Obama presidencies, the building of this proposed repository has been blocked. Without the facility to store the waste, and with the public confused about the safety of nuclear waste and how much space it takes up, it’s been harder for nuclear to really take hold in the way I believe it needs to.

Here are the facts. Spent nuclear fuel can be safely, efficiently stored by burying it in the ground. As I share in the book, all the nuclear waste from more than 50 years of nuclear power plants in the US—all of it—could be safely stored in an area the size of a football field and about 7 yards deep.

Myth or not, it stands to reason that when there’s a place for the waste to go, it opens up the possibility to use the technology more, and produce more waste, which now has a place to go. This is one aspect of Obama’s policy—his blocking of a remote football-field-sized hole out in the Nevada desert—that Mr. Trump will do well to reverse, and that could pave the way to smoother sailing for nuclear power as the premier clean energy source going into the future.


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