South Carolinians head to the polls Saturday to cast ballots on who they think should be president, and each candidate’s views on nuclear power could determine votes.
The South Carolina state government is currently preparing to sue the Department of Energy over a program to recycle weapons-grade plutonium into peaceful fuel for nuclear reactors. Nuclear power generates 54 percent of all electricity produced in South Carolina, according to the Energy Information Administration.
There are four nuclear power facilities in the state, and two more are located extremely close to South Carolina borders.
Here’s a breakdown of what all the major presidential candidates think about nuclear power:
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: The former Secretary of State claimed to be “agnostic about nuclear power” in the 2007 YouTube Democratic Primary debate. As a result, she rarely directly discusses nuclear energy, though one of her campaign fact sheet claims she favors “advanced nuclear,” which requires “expand[ing] successful innovation initiatives, like ARPA-e, and cut those that fail to deliver results.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders: The Vermont senator vehemently opposes nuclear power. He opposes the construction of new nuclear reactors “when we do not know how we get rid of the toxic waste from the ones that already exist.” Sanders’ campaign website states “Bernie has called for a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals in the United States.”
Donald Trump: The real estate mogul has made strong public statements supporting nuclear power, but tends to favor further development of natural gas.
In the aftermath of the 2011 Japan Fukushima nuclear disaster, Trump told Fox News “nuclear is a way we get what we have to get, which is energy.”
“I’m in favor of nuclear energy, very strongly in favor of nuclear energy,” Trump said. “If a plane goes down people keep flying. If you get into an auto crash people keep driving.”
The permitting process for nuclear power needs to be reformed, Trump explained. He qualified this statement saying “we have to be careful” because nuclear power “does have issues.” Trump specified that he favored the development of natural gas over nuclear energy in the same interview: “we’re the Saudi Arabia times 100 of natural gas, but we don’t use it.”
Sen. Ted Cruz: The Texas senator has not said much about nuclear power, and also lacks a substantive voting record on the issue.
Cruz’s website states he wants an “all-of-the-above” energy approach that adopts “an energy plan that embraces the Great American Energy Renaissance.” It does not specifically mention nuclear energy. Cruz has also repeatedly stated he opposes all energy subsides.
Cruz’s campaign declined comment to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Sen. Marco Rubio: The Florida senator has received praises for his energy policy. The National Review claimed “Rubio has the best and most serious energy plan” last November. Rubio also has a history of supporting nuclear energy.
Rubio’s campaign website says he will help nuclear power by “modernizing regulations and permitting processes will help develop both traditional and alternative energy sources and encourage energy diversity.”
When Rubio was running for Senate in 2010, his campaign website stated he supported “a comprehensive energy plan that encourages nuclear energy.” The Senator also wrote in a 2006 that “[c]lean, safe nuclear energy is another promising option to diversify Florida’s energy portfolio.”
Gov. John Kasich: As Ohio’s governor, Kasich hasn’t said much on nuclear energy, but is a firm supporter of green energy mandates that benefit solar and wind power.
Kasich has been embroiled in a fight with his own party over Ohio’s green energy mandate. Republican state legislators have threatened to gut a law mandating Ohio get 25 percent of its power from green energy by 2025. Kasich threatened to veto any legislative efforts that tamper with his green energy goals.
The Kasich campaign did not respond to request for comment.
Dr. Ben Carson: Not only is Carson a famed neurosurgeon, but he’s also a strong supporter of nuclear power.
“I think it is a huge mistake that we are not developing the next generation nuclear power plants faster,” Carson wrote in an August Facebook post. “We need to figure out how to build them with even more safety and expedite the process to lower the cost of construction. As I have said here before, we need to ignite the fire of the American economy and low-cost power is a critical ingredient to gaining a rebirth of manufacturing jobs in this country.”
Carson opposes all energy subsidies, favoring nuclear power over solar and wind energy. Solar power alone receives more than 81 times the subsidies than nuclear power per unit of energy generated.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush: Florida’s former governor is a strong supporter of nuclear power. Bush authored a pro-nuclear power opinion piece in a Florida newspaper in 2008, and was a member of the pro-nuclear Clean and Safe Energy Coalition. As governor, Bush encouraged the use of federal funds for nuclear cleanup.
The Bush campaign responded to request for comment by by directing this reporter to the campaign website .
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