Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton told Scientific American the U.S. needed to explore using more nuclear power, marking the ninth time the former secretary of state has flip-flopped on nuclear energy.
Clinton’s position changed from totally ignoring nuclear power in her 2016 platform to a tepid embrace of the technology.
She told Scientific American global warming is, “too important to limit the tools available in this fight.”
“Nuclear power,” she said, “is one of those tools.”
Clinton pledged to make sure the “climate benefits” of existing plants are “appropriately valued,” adding she wanted to “increase investment in the research, development and deployment of advanced nuclear power.”
Clinton’s newfound position on nuclear power puts her at odds with the anti-nuclear environmental movement, including The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, 350.org, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Environmentalists have backed Clinton because of green energy and climate policies.
The nuclear industry, on the other hand, was happy about Clinton’s embrace of nuclear power.
“We absolutely appreciate that from the Hillary camp,” Baker Elmore, director of federal programs at the Nuclear Energy Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “When she was Senator, she had a very controversial plant at Indian Point in her state of New York. She was never really overly critical of it which was a big plus. We really appreciate the new statement.”
Clinton previously opposed nuclear power in her Senate campaigns, but supported it once she actually got into office. She changed positions on nuclear energy eight times, according to an analysis of her public statements and policy positions by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Clinton’s campaign did not return requests for comment to TheDCNF in time for publication.
The flip-flops began when Clinton was running for the Democratic nomination in 2008, however, she started off from a pro-nuclear power position, saying, “I think nuclear power has to be part of our energy solution,” in February 2007. “We get about 20% of our energy from nuclear power in our country,” Clinton continued. “Other countries like France get much much more, so we have to look at it because it doesn’t put greenhouse gas emissions into the air.”
Clinton transitioned from this initial pro-nuclear stance during the early race to a neutral stance later on, as her primary race with then-candidate Sen. Barack Obama tightened.
“I’m agnostic about nuclear power,” Clinton said in July 2007 during a YouTube Democratic primary debate. “Until we figure out what we’re going to do with the waste and the cost, it’s very hard to see nuclear as a part of our future. But that’s where American technology comes in. Let’s figure out what we’re going to do about the waste and cost if we think nuclear should be a part of the solution.”
As her 2008 race with Obama got closer, Hillary migrated to an even more vehemently anti-nuclear position, explicitly excluding the industry from her platform.”I don’t include nuclear power in my energy policy, which I think is an appropriate approach given the problems we have with it,” Clinton told SentinelSource.com during an interview in late 2007.
After Clinton lost the Iowa caucus, she said that, “I have a comprehensive energy plan that does not rely on nuclear power,” in a January 2008 debate in Las Vegas.
When she lost the race for the Democratic nomination in 2008, Clinton’s views regarding nuclear power shifted radically. She began representing American nuclear companies to other countries as Obama’s secretary of state. Clinton used her position to support American nuclear companies in bids to construct and operate reactors in other countries, and helped American nuclear companies get contracts in countries like Japan, the Czech Republic and India.
“I think that nuclear power will remain a component of the energy supply globally, currently the United States, last time I looked, got 20 percent of our energy from nuclear plants,” Clinton said in October of 2012.
When Clinton again ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016, she rarely directly discussed 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.”
By the time Clinton pulled ahead of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in March, her policy director told a local Idaho news source that, “nuclear energy has an important role to play in our clean-energy future.”
After locking down the Democratic nomination, Clinton shifted back to opposing nuclear power.
Clinton’s platform for 2016 calls for having the nation run “entirely on clean energy by midcentury,” with a goal of “getting 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade.” The platform never defines clean energy, but other sections clearly indicate that it excludes nuclear, even though a single nuclear reactor can prevent 3.1 million tons of carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions annually. The phrases “nuclear energy” or “nuclear power” never appear in Clinton’s platform.
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