In one of the strangest ironies of the modern climate debate, those who ostensibly care the most about combatting climate change are often the most vociferous opponents of nuclear energy.
I’ve documented in a previous post how the community that nominally would have the most to gain from embracing the country’s single-largest source of carbon-free electricity almost uniformly opposes its existence:
“The Sierra Club remains unequivocally opposed to nuclear energy,” reads an excerpt from the website of the famed environmental megachurch.
“Nuclear energy has no place in a safe, clean, sustainable future,” reads the website of the group Greenpeace.
In other cases, opposition through on-the-ground activism takes the place of anti-nuclear declarations. Groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), for example, have proved instrumental in galvanizing the early closure of valuable nuclear plants all across the country despite the fact that such moves have unanimously resulted in higher GHG emissions.
Unfortunately, it’s starting to look like that same green group anti-nuclear ethos is beginning to mobilize to stymie any effort to allow nuclear to gain a foothold in Colorado.
According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, only two groups have registered their intention of lobbying against a recently introduced bill to study the feasibility of including small modular reactors (SMRs) in Colorado: a group called “Colorado Communities for Climate Action” and the government of Boulder County.
According to the group’s website, Colorado Communities for Climate Action is “a coalition of 40 local governments across the state advocating for stronger state and federal climate policy.”
Apparently, studying the potential to include 24/7 zero-carbon power doesn’t count.
Meanwhile, the ultra-progressive enclave of Boulder County often fancies itself as being “a global leader in climate action.” It has repeatedly attempted to ban fracking, is currently considering a ban on new natural gas hookups, launched a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the oil and gas industry in an attempt to secure damages for climate impacts, and established countywide emissions reduction goals of 90% by 2050 all in the name of confronting climate change.
Yet apparently the prospect of a measly feasibility study examining how SMRs might play a role in Colorado’s zero-carbon future is just a bridge too far for the “global climate leader.”
Making matters worse, Boulder County has also registered its opposition to a less-publicized bill that would simply amend the state’s statutory definitions of “clean energy” and “clean energy resource” to include nuclear energy. That would merely put nuclear on equal footing with other zero-carbon resources recognized by the state, including geothermal, solar, wind, hydropower, and green hydrogen. It would also align the state with the position taken by the Biden administration toward nuclear energy.
Once again, however, simply acknowledging nuclear’s role as a clean energy source is apparently verboten for the climate crusaders in the Governor’s home county.
It is not yet clear if this early opposition is shared by the Democratic majority in the state legislature. Perhaps it will be enough to kill each nuclear bill, as it was during the last session’s attempt to inject advanced nuclear energy into the conversation. Neither bill has been scheduled for an official committee hearing yet, so it remains a waiting game to see for sure.
Governor Polis, to his credit, has bucked the recalcitrant anti-nuclear zeal that has captured much of his party by recently coming around to express at least a tepid openness to nuclear energy. Let’s hope some of that openness permeates to his fellow Democrats in the legislature.