Does Nuclear Energy Have a Future in Colorado?

DENVER —  Could nuclear energy become part of Colorado’s future power portfolio, as we look for new ways to meet growing demand with affordable, reliable, environmentally-friendly technologies?

Possibly, a top expert told lawmakers Thursday -- if energy politics doesn't get in the way. 

The potential benefits of such a scenario, and of a wider nuclear energy revival across the U.S., were the focus of Thursday’s presentation by Michael Hagood, a scientist and acting director within the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), before the Senate Select Committee on Energy and the Environment.

Committee Chairman Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) has been using SSCEE hearings to offer a crash-course in energy literacy for his colleagues and the public. “It’s hard to have a coherent and rational debate about a complex issue like energy,” said Scott, “unless you lay the groundwork for such a debate by examining the facts. We’ve been holding these hearings in order to give folks the facts.”

Hagood told committee members that keeping up with our ongoing energy needs will require flexible thinking. “It is feasible that we can do a better job of integrating fossil fuels, nuclear power and renewables – but it does change the paradigm,” said Hagood. “It is a bit of a change maker,” though “the devil is in the details.”

Hagood said the country stands to benefit in profound ways if we can use innovation to encourage integration of nuclear energy with fossil fuels and renewables. Said Hagood: “We need to look at all our energy resources in terms of their highest value and we need to keep everything on the table. Fossil fuels are still a critical component and renewables will still be important. Technology is going to be essential. Nuclear is an opportunity for higher market value, but there are challenges ahead.”

One of the challenges, said Hagood, is an “interesting dynamic and tension” between the largely-urban areas where most energy is consumed and the mostly-rural areas where it’s produced. “Highly populated areas command and set policy and rural areas produce it,” said Hagood. “The flow of energy, water and food comes from the rural areas to population centers creates interdependence that makes for a very interesting story.”

Colorado’s energy potential is huge, Hagood said in conclusion, promising a potentially bright future. Unless political issues get in the way.

“You haven’t even scratched the surface yet in terms of getting more value out of what you have,” he said, given Colorado’s  “richness of resources. Technologically we can do a lot, but the sociopolitical aspects are challenging.”

Hagood is the Acting Associate Laboratory Director for Energy, Environment, Science and Technology and Acting Director of the Center for Advanced Energy. INL is a multi-program research lab under the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). There are a total of seventeen such laboratories. NREL in Golden, Colorado is one of them. One of the stated purposes of all the laboratories is to address large scale, complex research and development challenges with a multidisciplinary approach that places an emphasis on translating basic science to innovation according to the DOE’s website.  

Please contact Sean Paige at 719-337-0355 with media inquires.


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