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Former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz and former Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel B. Poneman ’78 discussed the importance of nuclear energy in an event moderated by Harvard Kennedy School Professor Meghan L. O’Sullivan at the Institute of Politics Monday night.
Moniz, an MIT physics professor who served as Energy Secretary during the second term of the Obama administration, and Poneman, who served as the department’s deputy secretary during the Obama administration, spoke about nuclear energy as an essential power source.
Moniz said nuclear energy, in addition to renewable resources like wind and solar power, will be necessary as the United States attempts to move toward a net-zero carbon output.
Both Moniz and Poneman said carbon reductions through the use of renewable energy alone are not sufficient for current energy demands. Moniz cited California as an example of the infeasibility of relying on renewable resources alone, with not enough wind and sun to generate adequate renewable energy in the state year-round.
“We just don’t have [storage] today in renewables,” Moniz said. “We do have it today in natural gas.”
Poneman spoke about his belief in nuclear energy as a potential solution to energy demands as well as multiple other national and global issues.
“There's serious interest – a bipartisan interest – in promoting nuclear energy as a response to climate change and also as a response to the need for U.S. leadership on other issues we’ll talk about, like national security and non proliferation,” Poneman said. “But it's going to be a slog, there's no question about it.”
Both Poneman and Moniz also stressed the importance of forming coalitions, both internally and internationally, around the issue of nuclear power.
“There are some people who think climate change is a hoax, but they might think the United States needs to be a great leader in nuclear energy because of our global influence,” Poneman said. “There might be some people who really don’t care about the global world but worry about the climate change.”
He added that nuclear power in the United States appears to be waning as other countries like South Korea and China increase their use of nuclear power.
“We still have a leadership role to play,” he said. “But the leadership role we want to enjoy has significantly eroded.”
Duncan O. Glew ’23 said he attended the event to learn more about nuclear energy.
“This is one of the areas of American politics and government that I’m just not as much of an expert on, and I just want to learn about our energy infrastructure and how nuclear fits into that,” he said.
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