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If Washington isn’t going to take the lead on clean energy, then it’s time to look for new innovative ways to move forward. To make that happen, environmentalists need to take a fresh look at nuclear energy.

Environmentalists and energy advocates alike should welcome innovations to nuclear power that could potentially help diversify and enhance Utah's energy ecosystem.

We call attention to a development taking place in southeast Idaho, which is the proposed location for a new design of a modular nuclear power plant. The plant is being championed by a group called NuScale Technology, and it could provide the template for nuclear power that is both safer and cheaper than existing plants. What's more, it generates energy that is far cleaner than fossil fuels and produces essentially no carbon emissions whatsoever.

In the pursuit of clean, renewable energy, nuclear is often ignored due to safety concerns. The apocalyptic rhetoric used to describe nuclear power seems to suggest that every power plant is another Chernobyl waiting to happen. Yet many opponents of nuclear energy often gloss over the fact that Chernobyl was obsolete even back in the 1980s when the disaster took place, and the technology is far more reliable and much less dangerous than it was 30 years ago.

Other developed nations, for example, don’t share America’s aversion to nuclear power. Currently, France relies on nuclear power for an estimated 75 percent of its energy. In the United States, that number is only 20 percent, which is actually quite remarkable, given that the U.S. hasn't built a new nuclear power plant in roughly four decades.

Ironically, the opposition to new construction of small-scale nuclear is largely coming from the very people who are eager to excoriate President Donald Trump for failing to develop sustainable energy sources. Pockets of environmentalist activists have expressed anxiety concerning the new administration for removing references to climate change from the White House website; critics have seized on that fact to speculate that the president will withdraw from the recent Paris climate agreements.

It’s important to note, however, that environmentalists should look as much to innovations in industry as to Washington in the quest for clean energy. It’s unfortunate that so many who are eager to find cost-effective and clean alternatives to fossil fuels are the first in line to reject the one such power source that already exists.

While there are understandable reservations regarding nuclear energy, with the development of safer and more technologies, it's worth looking once again at the potential of nuclear energy.