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Columbia Energy Exchange

The Opportunity and Challenge of Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is increasingly seen as a solution to climate change, thanks to its carbon-free characteristics. But harnessing the atom more for peaceful purposes like electric power also requires assurances that it will be done safely and economically, and won’t fall into the hands of those who would use it as a weapon.

In this episode of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless is joined by Dan Poneman, the author of a new book from The MIT Press called “Double Jeopardy: Combating Nuclear Terror and Climate Change.” Based on his decades of experience in nuclear issues, Dan writes that nuclear power is essential to decarbonizing the environment and can be relied upon more even as we reduce the risks of nuclear.

Their conversation is timely, happening as headlines over nuclear threats in Iran and North Korea compete for attention with those over climate change, and raise questions over whether those two characteristics of nuclear energy can really be reconciled today.

Dan and Bill talk about that as well as what Dan considers to be good policymaking in nuclear energy and nuclear nonproliferation, and what’s taking place along those lines in Washington today. And he tells us what advances in technology he thinks are needed to make nuclear energy an option again for new generating capacity in the U.S.

Dan is the president and CEO of Centrus Energy Corporation, a Maryland-based firm which sells enrichment, fuel and fuel services to utilities with nuclear reactors around the world. Previously, he was Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy during the Obama administration and a member of the National Security Council staff responsible for nonproliferation and export controls during the Clinton administration.

On a lighter note, Dan and Bill also talk about his off-hours activities as a rock musician over the years, including a band named “Yellow Cake,” a humorous reference to an ingredient in the nuclear fuel-making process. It gives us a look at another side of a man known primarily for his work on a rather sober topic.

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