Good Energy Collective: Deep Dive

This report was last updated in November 2022.


As part of our 2022 investigation into nuclear power, we developed a longlist of 50 organizations, shortlisted seven organizations, conducted five shallow dives, and ultimately added one organization to our list of recommendations. Our decision to recommend just one nuclear organization was difficult to make because we believe there are several divergent high-potential strategies to support nuclear power, and several organizations doing important work to implement these strategies. Please see our nuclear power organization shallow dives report (forthcoming) and nuclear power deep dive for more information.


Contents

Summary

What is Good Energy Collective?

What does GEC do?

Community engagement

Policy

Policy priorities

Policy advocacy and engagement

How could GEC reduce greenhouse gases?

Nuclear power as a source of low-carbon energy

GEC’s theory of change

Examining the assumptions behind GEC’s theory of change

What is GEC’s cost-effectiveness?

Is there room for more funding?

Are there major co-benefits or adverse effects?

Key uncertainties and open questions

Bottom line / next steps


Summary


  • What is Good Energy Collective? Good Energy Collective (GEC) is a nonprofit that supports advanced nuclear reactors and a clean energy transition. Its activities include community engagement and advocating for progressive policies that support advanced reactor deployment.

  • How could it reduce greenhouse gases? Nuclear power could reduce greenhouse gases by replacing fossil fuels. Building demand for advanced reactors could mitigate financial risks for companies and expand deployment. Increased production could feed into a virtuous cycle by decreasing costs and amplifying political support, further expanding deployment.

  • What is evidence of its effectiveness? GEC played a role in advocating for West Virginia to lift its ban on nuclear energy and has had some wins related to its work on a coal-to-nuclear transition. Although GEC is a young organization, much of its staff has deep experience in nuclear policy.

  • What is its cost-effectiveness? We developed a highly subjective rough guess cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) to estimate the costs and impacts of GEC’s prior work advocating for a lifted ban on nuclear power in West Virginia. Focusing this analysis on GEC’s West Virginia advocacy is likely not generalizable to its overall cost-effectiveness. Namely, this model focuses on the near-term effect of advanced reactors in West Virginia, and ignores the longer-term effects of market-building, scaling, and technological progress. We believe the organization’s real effect would be much higher than what we model in our analysis. Overall, we estimate it could plausibly be within the range of cost-effectiveness we would consider for a top recommendation. We have low confidence in this CEA, but generally view it as a positive input to our overall assessment of GEC.

  • Is there room for more funding? GEC’s self-reported funding gap for 2023 is $100,000, but our impression is that its room for more funding most likely exceeds this. Its planned 2023 budget is short of $1M and according to GEC, if its funding doubled, it would use additional revenue to hire staff and substantially expand its community engagement work.

  • Are there co-benefits or adverse effects? GEC’s co-benefits and adverse effects are primarily the same as those related to advanced nuclear technologies. For more information, please see our deep dive report on nuclear power.

  • Key uncertainties / Open questions: Key uncertainties include whether GEC’s efforts are necessary to increase advanced reactor production and deployment, the marginal impact of its priority focus on the US, and its room for more funding.

  • Bottom line / Next steps: We classify GEC as one of our top recommendations to reduce climate change. We believe donations to GEC are within the range of the most cost-effective giving opportunities we have identified, and could additionally increase its organizational growth trajectory. We plan to continue to assess our key uncertainties, and believe that we will be able to substantially improve our understanding of the severity and importance of these uncertainties as GEC executes its strategies in 2023.


What is Good Energy Collective?


Good Energy Collective (GEC) is a nonprofit founded in 2020 that advocates for advanced nuclear reactors from a progressive lens [1]. Its policy agenda includes recommendations for the Biden Administration, Congress, and the nuclear industry that would enhance advanced reactors’ supply and demand and build trust with local communities and stakeholders [2]. GEC said it mainly focuses on US domestic nuclear issues but also has a separate workstream that looks at international topics, such as global climate diplomacy through nuclear energy cooperation and exports [3]. Giving Green’s belief is that the US will likely be a proving ground for advanced reactors, so success in the US has the potential for global spillovers.


What does GEC do?


We divided GEC’s work into two overlapping focus areas: community engagement and policy.


Community engagement


GEC aims to build support for advanced reactors in potential nuclear host communities by collaborating with environmental justice organizations, community-based organizations, and other nonprofits. Its “grasstops'' advocacy—engagement with opinion leaders and decisionmakers—includes convening stakeholders and speaking with elected officials. For example, GEC co-sponsored Energy Communities Alliance’s Forum on Hosting New Nuclear Development, which brought together diverse stakeholders such as government officials, Tribal leaders, and industry to share best practices for siting nuclear projects [4].


In 2023, GEC plans to host town hall-style focus groups to help inform state and local governments on how to engage with communities, including ones new to nuclear energy and ones with existing reactors [5]. GEC also said it would share its findings with industry and develop general best practices for others to follow, although we are unsure what this looks like in practice [6].


Policy


Policy priorities


According to GEC, its near-term policy priorities include supporting a coal-to-nuclear transition and ensuring sufficient federal funding for equitable nuclear waste management [7]. Under a coal-to-nuclear transition, coal plants are repowered with advanced reactors, which would yield climate benefits from reduced emissions, health benefits from improved air quality, and economic benefits from keeping jobs in coal communities. GEC’s work on nuclear waste management ties into the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) allocation of $16M to helping communities learn more about consent-based siting [8]. GEC said it would like to ensure that DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy has enough funding to help with consent-based siting beyond its current two-year timeline [9].


An ongoing priority for GEC is embedding social science research into the nuclear energy sector, which GEC sees as important for building a just framework for a clean energy transition [10]. Its work has included advocating for a social science agenda within the Office of Nuclear Energy to help guide planning, decision-making, and funding [11].


Policy advocacy and engagement


GEC’s policy advocacy includes writing memos on an equitable clean energy transition, submitting public comments, and conducting technical analyses. For example, GEC mapped out locations of US coal plants that may be strong candidates for repowering with nuclear energy [12]. GEC develops and advances its ideas by engaging with a network of nuclear stakeholders, including federal and state-level policymakers, industry, national laboratories, and nonprofits [13]. For example, GEC is part of a working group of nonprofit partners that has helped inform the standup of DOE’s new Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED); the group has provided OCED with recommendations on implementation strategy and GEC remains an active participant in this group [14].


How could GEC reduce greenhouse gases?


Nuclear power as a source of low-carbon energy


Traditional and advanced reactors could reduce levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere if they replace or avoid electricity generation sources that produce more GHGs (e.g., coal-fired or natural gas power plants) [15]. We think the most promising and large-scale GHG reduction opportunity comes from nuclear power’s ability to complement renewables because, unlike wind and solar power, nuclear power can produce steady electricity regardless of seasonal or environmental factors [16]. Some advanced reactors’ high-temperature steam can also yield carbon-free hydrogen gas, which can be used as an alternative to natural gas [17]. Also, industrial processes that require fossil fuels to create high heat can use certain types of advanced reactors instead [18]. For more information on nuclear power, please see our deep dive report on nuclear power.


GEC’s theory of change


GEC’s primary inputs in its theory of change are (1) community engagement and (2) policy advocacy (Figure 1).


Our take is that community engagement could impact GHGs both directly and indirectly. For example, community engagement could have direct effects on deployment and GHG reductions by mitigating local opposition to nuclear projects and building demand for advanced reactors. Community engagement’s indirect impact is related to spillover effects that reduce companies’ financial risks. For example, community support could help companies avoid expenses associated with drawn-out legal battles and canceled projects. Additionally, increased demand for advanced reactors could help establish an order book for first-of-a-kind reactors and encourage companies to enter the market sooner. These combined effects could shift advanced reactor development and GHG reductions forward in time compared to the counterfactual.


We believe GEC’s policy advocacy increases the likelihood that legislation related to advanced reactor deployment gets passed into law. Increased government support for advanced reactor deployment would likely lower companies’ costs and financial risks. In turn, this would most likely increase production and deployment of advanced reactors. Ramped-up production could feed into a virtuous cycle by decreasing construction costs (e.g., economies of scale, “learning by doing”) and fostering a more supportive policy environment for advanced reactors, possibly leading to more pro-nuclear legislation being passed.


Our understanding is that GEC’s work on community engagement and policy advocacy in the US could have global implications. Namely, a proven model for advanced reactor deployment in the US could be used elsewhere in the world. Additionally, cost reductions from accelerated progress on developing and deploying advanced reactors could have international spillover effects, such as from exporting and leasing new technologies. We believe that proving the political, economic, and social viability of scaled advanced nuclear in the US is the most cost-effective pathway to global advanced nuclear. For additional information, please see our deep dive report on nuclear power.



Figure 1: Theory of change for GEC

We examine the evidence for how well GEC executes its inputs in the sections below.


Examining the assumptions behind GEC’s theory of change


Below, we discuss and evaluate the assumptions related to GEC’s theory of change. For each of the assumptions, we rank whether we have low, medium, or high certainty about the assumption [19]. Importantly, a number of the stages of GEC’s theory of change are not amenable to easy measurement or quantification, or are expected to happen in the future but have yet to occur. We assess whether the best available evidence, primary or secondary, for each assumption suggests whether the assumption will plausibly hold.


1. GEC’s community engagement will decrease opposition and increase demand (medium certainty).

Public support for energy infrastructure projects helps determine whether the project will be developed. According to a systematic literature review, this support is often correlated with knowledge, trust, and perceived positive benefits [20]. We think GEC could play a role in building trust between communities and the nuclear industry. Namely, conversations with industry experts and stakeholders have led us to believe that many people in the US, especially those from marginalized communities, are predisposed to distrusting the nuclear industry, given its history of environmental and procedural injustices. Therefore, as a neutral third party and (to the best of our knowledge) one of the few groups working on advanced reactor deployment across the nation, GEC can play a crucial role in building community buy-in and demand that industry actors cannot.


We think GEC’s emphasis on ensuring community participation in nuclear projects is promising. For example, some evidence suggests that parties can resolve conflict over siting nuclear waste management facilities through consensus-based decision-making processes [21]. GEC’s work has included efforts to inform DOE on how to integrate such processes into waste storage activities [22]. According to GEC, it has been challenging to build bridges with environmental justice and community-based organizations that could help with its community engagement efforts [23]. However, GEC plans on hiring staff with experience in this area, which builds our confidence in its future abilities.


2. GEC’s policy advocacy will help legislation supporting advanced reactors get passed (high certainty).

We believe GEC’s work advocating for a coal-to-nuclear transition may have helped lift West Virginia’s ban on nuclear energy. GEC contributed to this effort by releasing a report on the benefits of a coal-to-nuclear transition and engaging with state-level policymakers [24]. According to GEC, West Virginia’s governor signed a bill repealing the state's ban on nuclear power plants shortly after GEC presented its coal-to-nuclear report at an event with several West Virginia House delegates in attendance [25]. As evidence of GEC’s influence on policy, its work was later cited in DOE’s report on coal-to-nuclear, and GEC said that it has the impression that it has nudged policymakers and industry towards considering community engagement [26]. GEC said it is now speaking regularly with the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear, which handles the US government’s coal-to-nuclear work [27]. We do not think that GEC was solely responsible for West Virginia’s nuclear bill because other interests, such as industry, also advocated for it [28]. However, we believe GEC’s contributions probably increased the likelihood of this bill being passed.


As a new organization, GEC’s track record of policy wins is relatively short. However, we note its team is not new to nuclear policy and has had prior policy wins outside of GEC. For example, its Deputy Director, Jackie Toth, previously worked as an Advisor for Policy and Content for Third Way’s Climate and Energy Program [29]. According to GEC, she was active in the US federal budget appropriation process while at Third Way and has applied a similar strategy at GEC [30].


We have a positive impression of her policy engagement experience, given Third Way’s prior success securing federal funding for research, development, and deployment of advanced reactors [31].


3. Financial risks and high costs are significant but not insurmountable barriers to deployment (high certainty).

We are under the impression that advanced reactors can become viable after reaching an inflection point where companies can profitably scale production and deployment. We think GEC’s work on a coal-to-nuclear transition could be constructive for reaching this inflection point. For example, a coal-to-nuclear transition has benefits associated with keeping jobs in coal communities, which could increase nuclear power’s appeal. Moreover, a coal-to-nuclear transition seems feasible given the dozens of US coal power plant sites that can be converted to nuclear power plant sites [32]. For more commentary on advanced nuclear's general cost-competitiveness, see our deep dive report on nuclear power.


4. GEC’s approach can build political and community support for nuclear energy (high certainty).

According to research by the Breakthrough Institute (BTI), few people in the US have a strong opinion on nuclear energy. Instead, public opinion has been largely cued by elite opinion (e.g., viewpoints of politicians and journalists), and elite opinion has been fractured between those with egalitarian worldviews who trend anti-nuclear and elites with hierarchical/individualist worldviews who are more aligned with nuclear support [33]. To transform attitudes about nuclear energy, BTI recommended highlighting benefits, focusing on advanced reactors instead of traditional reactors, and targeting “egalitarian elites.” [34] Our impression is that BTI specifically mentioned egalitarian elites because progressive leaders have been less outspoken in supporting nuclear energy and could prompt a substantial shift in public opinion.


We have a positive impression of GEC’s “grasstops” advocacy and its potential for shifting public opinion because of its alignment with these guiding principles. Importantly, GEC may be better positioned than other organizations to influence policymakers with egalitarian values because it advocates for progressive policies and a community-based approach. (We note that Dr. Jessica Lovering from GEC helped review BTI’s research report and was previously employed by BTI. [35])


Examples of egalitarian elites GEC has reached out to include members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, such as Representatives Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Mike Levin (D-CA) [36]. These two Members of Congress could play an important role in supporting deployment because as of November 2022, Representative Bowman serves as the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Energy Subcommittee, while Representative Levin has been active on nuclear waste siting issues [37]. Although the role of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in influencing federal policy will probably shrink after the 2022 midterm elections, we think that GEC could still have an impact by working with these policymakers at the state level.


5. GEC will still be influential after the 2022 midterm elections (high certainty).

GEC’s influence after the 2022 midterm elections is not an explicit part of its theory of change, but we believe it is important to assess due to its political timing.


We think Democrats will no longer have a government trifecta after the 2022 midterm elections, which will hinder the Democratic Party’s ability to pass ambitious federal climate policy [38]. However, this may not substantially impact nuclear-related legislation because more Republicans than Democrats support increased nuclear power [39]. Additionally, GEC said that despite its progressive stance, it could still influence federal policy by framing nuclear energy in a way that appeals to Republicans [40]. For example, GEC said it could highlight advanced reactors’ energy security and economic benefits [41]. In addition, GEC noted that it works across the aisle with nonpartisan and conservative climate and energy advocacy groups, although we are uncertain what this looks like in practice [42]. We also believe that GEC may still be able to push its ideas forward under a Republican-controlled Congress by working through regulatory engagement, which it already has experience in, and state policy [43].


6. Cost reductions and a US deployment model enable international spillover effects (high certainty).

It is our impression that US outputs in advanced nuclear reactor research, development, and deployment could increase adoption elsewhere by reducing costs, establishing regulatory standards, and having signaling effects. For example, South Korea initially built its traditional reactors by taking advantage of proven designs from other countries (including the US) and learning from their experiences [44]. From this, and other advantages such as standardized design and stable regulations, South Korea was able to scale its fleet of traditional reactors and decrease its overnight construction costs over time [45]. Our understanding is that innovation in other countries helped seed this nuclear power scale-up in South Korea, and that similar cases of technology transfer have happened with other low-carbon technologies. Additionally, nuclear policy experts we spoke to informed us that the US is an important proving ground for advanced reactors before widespread deployment, although we note that these experts were primarily focused on US advanced nuclear efforts.


However, cost reductions and a successful deployment model alone do not guarantee adoption. According to some evidence, factors that have historically influenced whether a country adopts new nuclear power include the country’s proximity to a major technology supplier, the size of its economy, how much its electricity demand is growing, and how much it relies on energy imports [46]. We assume that countries new to both advanced reactors and nuclear power would also be strongly influenced by national markets. We are unsure what factors matter most for advanced reactor deployment in countries with existing nuclear power. Additionally, we are uncertain about the extent to which advanced reactors can be exported globally due to its geopolitical nature. Namely, Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act requires agreements between the US and other countries on peaceful nuclear cooperation before any significant transfer of nuclear material or equipment from the US [47].


What is GEC’s cost-effectiveness?


As a rough plausibility check, we developed a cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) to estimate the costs and impacts of GEC’s prior work on advocating for a lifted ban on nuclear power in West Virginia. Focusing this CEA on GEC’s West Virginia advocacy is likely not generalizable to GEC’s overall cost-effectiveness. Namely, this model focuses on the near-term effect of advanced reactors in West Virginia, and ignores the longer-term effects of market-building, scaling, and technological progress. We believe GEC’s real effect would be much higher than what we model in our CEA, which primarily serves as a high-level sense-check of whether GEC’s efforts might be highly cost-effective. We chose to develop a more specific CEA because we think a CEA of GEC, overall, would include too many highly subjective guess parameters to have any confidence in its results.


Despite the narrow focus of this CEA, it also includes highly subjective guess parameters and should not be taken literally. In particular, we estimated the amount of funding GEC spent on advocating for West Virginia to lift its ban on nuclear power, the number of years that policy advocacy shifted this lifted ban forward, the change in probability of the ban being lifted due to policy advocacy, and how much of that change in probability could be attributed to GEC. Overall, we guess GEC could plausibly be within the range of cost-effectiveness we would consider for a top recommendation [48]. We have low confidence in the ability of our CEA to estimate GEC’s general cost-effectiveness, but view it as a slight positive input into our overall assessment of GEC [49]. See below for a high-level explanation and the model itself for additional notes and citations.


  • Costs: We estimated GEC’s spending on lifting the West Virginia ban as almost $97,000, which we calculated based on GEC’s 2022 budget and funding buckets.

  • Avoided GHG: We first estimated the number of recently retired coal-fired plants in West Virginia that are amenable to advanced reactor siting. From this value, we estimated the annual electricity that could be generated if the sites were outfitted with advanced reactors. In the counterfactual case, the electricity generated by the converted reactors are instead produced by other electricity sources. We assumed the emissions of these other electricity sources had an emission intensity equal to that of West Virginia’s 2020 average. Therefore, we calculated avoided emissions by multiplying the advanced reactors’ annual electricity output by West Virginia’s emission intensity.

  • Effectiveness: We assumed that in general, policy advocacy pushed the timeline for the lifted ban forward by 0.5 to 2 years. We assumed a relatively short time frame because our impression is that coal power plants are already being retired in West Virginia and the state needs to replace them with new energy sources. Similarly, we assumed that policy advocacy changed the likelihood of the ban being lifted by a small percentage during the given time period. We then assigned a small fraction of that policy advocacy to GEC. We estimated GEC’s effectiveness by multiplying the avoided emissions by the number of years and change in probability of the ban being lifted due to GEC.

  • Results: Our best guess is that GEC’s policy advocacy related to the West Virginia ban avoided one tCO2e for around $3.50 (range: $0.87-$14). We also developed a Guesstimate version of this CEA, which allowed us to assign ranges of values and probability distributions for each input.


Is there room for more funding?


GEC’s 2022 budget is about $775,000, and its planned 2023 budget is roughly $950,000. Its self-reported funding gap for 2023 is approximately $100,000 based on current staffing levels [50]. GEC plans to grow, and its goal for 2024 and 2025 is to raise $1.5M annually.


GEC received a roughly three-year grant of $600,000 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that will conclude in 2024 [51]. Additional funders include the Bernard and Anne Spitzer Charitable Trust, the Alex C. Walker Foundation, the Anthropocene Institute, and Breakthrough Energy Ventures [52]. According to GEC, it has also received money from the Pritzker Innovation Fund in the past but does not currently receive support from the fund.. [53]


GEC said that if it received additional funding such that its 2023 budget doubled, it would use the extra money on the following activities:


  • Hiring additional staff GEC is interested in hiring one or two additional members of staff to scale its community engagement, particularly in coal communities, across more states. It would also like to hire staff to support its general operations, which are currently handled by its leadership team. [54]

  • Expanding its outreach and community engagement – According to GEC, increased funds would help GEC expand its outreach to Congress and state policymakers and become more deeply involved in community engagement. For example, it would conduct more focus groups to understand perceptions around nuclear siting. [55]


Our take is that with an increased budget, GEC could become more effective by increasing staff and scaling its community engagement efforts.


Are there major co-benefits or adverse effects?


We think that GEC largely shares the same co-benefits and adverse effects as advanced reactors. Co-benefits include improved safety and reduced land intensity compared to other energy sources [56]. Adverse effects include the production of radioactive waste, which must be safely recycled or stored, and environmental and procedural justice concerns related to siting nuclear projects and uranium mining [57]. However, compared to other organizations working on advanced reactors, GEC’s work probably leads to fewer justice concerns given its progressive policies. Expanding nuclear power may also increase the risk of meltdowns and nuclear proliferation, but we are highly uncertain about this. Please see our deep dive on nuclear power for more information.


Key uncertainties and open questions


In addition to our broader uncertainties around advanced reactors (see our nuclear power deep dive), we are uncertain about GEC’s effectiveness, its primary focus on the US, and its future room for more funding.


  • Uncertainty around the counterfactual – Although we believe GEC’s theory of change holds, there is uncertainty on whether its efforts are necessary to increase advanced reactor production and deployment. Our take is that GEC improves the odds of increased production and deployment on the margin and that its efforts to shore up support from the left also protects against binary political failure.

  • How GEC’s tactics compare to other efforts to improve implementation feasibility – GEC’s actions could be less impactful if there are earlier blockers to deployment. For example, an inefficient licensing pathway for advanced reactors may significantly lengthen how long it takes to build and deploy an advanced reactor, increasing construction costs. If inefficient licensing stops companies from building reactors, this could be a first-order blocker to deployment that arguably comes before inducing demand. Please see our deep dive on nuclear power for more information.

  • Uncertainty around focusing on the US – We are unsure whether focusing primarily on advanced reactors solely in the US is the best use of philanthropic funds if we are most interested in expanding this technology globally [58]. Other high-innovation countries working on advanced reactors include Canada, China, France, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, and South Korea [59]. Experts we spoke with have unanimously agreed that the most likely path to global deployment of advanced reactors goes through the US due to its innovation experience and gold-standard licensing process, though most of these experts focus primarily on US advanced nuclear efforts.

  • Room for more funding – Although GEC has room for more funding, it has done well thus far in reaching its funding goals and has mentioned plans to grow relatively slowly [60]. Given this, there is a fair chance that GEC successfully achieves its 2023 and 2024 fundraising goals without money directed by Giving Green. However, we think GEC could effectively absorb more funding than its fundraising goals suggest. For example, given GEC’s disaggregated work, we think it could continue to expand to new geographies it otherwise would not have focused on. However, we have some uncertainty around this, especially because GEC is relatively new and has not yet experienced rapid growth opportunities.


Bottom line / next steps


We classify GEC as one of our top recommendations to reduce climate change, and believe donations to GEC are within the range of the most cost-effective giving opportunities we have identified.


We believe GEC’s community engagement and policy efforts fill a neglected niche in increasing advanced reactor deployment, and that it can currently absorb additional funding. Though we generally view GEC as promising, we remain uncertain on GEC’s room for more funding and whether focusing on advanced reactors solely in the US is the best use of philanthropic funds. If we believe GEC can no longer absorb additional funding productively, we would no longer classify GEC as a top recommendation. We plan to continue to assess these uncertainties, and believe we will be able to substantially improve our understanding of the severity and importance of these uncertainties as GEC executes its strategies in 2023.


Endnotes


This is a non-partisan analysis (study or research) and is provided for educational purposes.


[1] So on August 11, 2020, we embarked on a mission to make the progressive case for nuclear energy as part of a broader climate agenda.” Good Energy Collective, 2022.


[2] “Better governance will require a step-change by the administration, congress, and the nuclear industry… Here are the specific steps that different players must take to achieve an advanced nuclear-inclusive climate response.” "Our Progressive Policy Agenda for Advanced Nuclear Energy" 2020.

[3] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-10-17.


[4] “From Aug. 3 – Aug. 5, Good Energy Collective was onsite in Salt Lake City, Utah, to cosponsor the Energy Communities Alliance’s Forum on Hosting New Nuclear Development and talk about these issues. The fantastic team at ECA brought together local, state, and federal officials, Tribal leaders and members, economic development officials, reactor developers, engineering and construction contractors, national laboratory scientists, academia, and energy nonprofits… Participants met to knowledge-share on best practices and areas for improvement.” "Good Energy Reflects: ECA Forum on Hosting New Nuclear Development" 2022.


[5] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-10-17.


[6] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-10-17.


[7] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-10-17.


[8] “The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $16 million in funding to provide resources to communities interested in learning more about consent-based siting, management of spent nuclear fuel, and interim storage facility siting considerations.” "DOE Announces $16 Million to Support Consent-Based Siting for Spent Nuclear Fuel" 2022.


[9] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-10-17.


[10] “Our research is rooted in social science and champions a whole-of-government approach, so that communities can go from ideas, to development, to thoughtful and effective deployment faster and more efficiently.” "About us" n.d..


[11] “The next Assistant Secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy should put together an interdisciplinary team tasked with directly funding social science research to help guide the office's planning, decision-making, and funding strategies--and whenever possible the research should be published in order to provide a new shared knowledge base for the broader nuclear sector.” "It’s Time for a Social Science Agenda for the Advanced Nuclear Sector" 2020.


[12] “With data from our friends at the University of Michigan’s Fastest Path to Zero initiative, we analyzed the 300-odd U.S. coal plants where units have retired since 2010 or will retire by 2045. When we removed sites with environmental hazards, state nuclear restrictions, and generation of either too much or too little power, we found as many as 80 sites that make the most sense to explore repowering with advanced nuclear energy.” Good Energy Collective, 2022.


[13] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-10-17.


[14] Standing up the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations: “We’re excited to be working alongside other climate and energy organizations to help inform the standup of the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, a new agency at the U.S. Department of Energy that will support new, climate-friendly energy sources in proving their potential.” Good Energy Collective, 2022. GEC’s activities: “We have provided two sets of recommendations to this new office, laying out implementation strategies and considerations to chart a course for OCED’s success.” "First-of-Its-Kind: Making DOE’s New Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations a Success" 2022. GEC’s current involvement with the working group: Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-11-10.


[15] Nuclear produces 3 tCO2e per GWh of electricity, compared to 820 for coal and 490 for natural gas. Energy 2022.


[16] “Nuclear power plants contribute to electricity security in multiple ways. Nuclear plants help to keep power grids stable. To a certain extent, they can adjust their operations to follow demand and supply shifts. As the share of variable renewables like wind and solar photovoltaics (PV) rises, the need for such services will increase. Nuclear plants can help to limit the impacts from seasonal fluctuations in output from renewables and bolster energy security by reducing dependence on imported fuels.” "Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System" 2019.


[17] “And the reactors’ high-temperature steam could also yield significant amounts of hydrogen, a carbon-free alternative fuel to natural gas.” "Nuclear Power Gets New Push in U.S., Winning Converts" 2022.


[18] “Some advanced nuclear reactors produce high temperatures that can be used for industrial processes. Many industrial processes currently rely on fossil fuels to produce necessary heat levels, and advanced reactors could substitute for fossil fuels in processes that would be difficult to electrify. In this way, advanced reactors have the potential to help decarbonize industries that are currently heavily reliant on fossil fuels.” Advanced Nuclear Reactors 101 2021.


[19] We describe our certainty as low/medium/high to increase readability and avoid false precision. Since these terms can be interpreted differently, we use rough heuristics to define them as percentage likelihoods the assumption is, on average, correct. Low = 0-70%, medium = 70-90%, high = 90-100%.


[20] “Scholars have examined the role of many factors in understanding attitudes toward energy infrastructure, and often find knowledge, trust, and positive perceptions about the benefits of projects to be positively correlated with support for projects, although with variation across energy types.” Carley et al 2020.


[21] “Briefly, there exist robust technical solutions for spent fuel management, such as interim storage in dry casks and permanent disposal in geological repositories with excavated tunnels or deep boreholes—the greater difficulty, historically, has been siting such facilities. But the evidence suggests that these solutions can be implemented through a well-managed, consensus-based decision-making process, as has been demonstrated in Finland and Sweden.” Buongiorno et al, 2018.


[22] “Good Energy Collective’s Response to the U.S. Department of Energy Request for Information on Using a Consent-Based Siting Process to Identify Federal Interim Storage

Facilities” "Good Energy Collective’s Response to the U.S. Department of Energy Request for Information on Using a Consent-Based Siting Process to Identify Federal Interim Storage Facilities" 2022.


[23] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-09-27.


[24] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-09-27.


[25] “Things moved really quickly in West Virginia over the last few weeks, as lawmakers discussed, considered, and passed legislation to remove state restrictions on the construction of nuclear energy. As we flagged in our last newsletter, Jessica provided some information about nuclear energy at a Jan. 18 event that explored the feasibility of advanced nuclear for West Virginia and featured three West Virginia House delegates who were considering revisiting the restrictions. Jessica highlighted the collective’s report on the potential benefits of nuclear energy for communities with retired or retiring coal plants, which we released in December.” Good Energy Collective, 2022.


[26] Cited report: “Background and Literature Review… . Toth et al. (2022) focuses on the frontline community impacts of transitioning away from coal.” "Investigating Benefits and Challenges of Converting Retiring Coal Plants into Nuclear Plants" 2022. Nudging policymakers: Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-09-27.


[27] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-09-27.


[28] Examples of industry interests: “Supporters of the bill include the West Virginia Manufacturers Association and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. They see the repeal as a way of enticing industries to the state and showing that the state supports multiple sources of electricity.” "Public weighs in on nuclear power plant prohibition repeal" 2022.


[29] “In 2020, Jackie traded her reporter's hat for an advocate's fedora and joined Third Way's Climate and Energy Program as an advisor for policy and content, managing the program's public opinion research and writing thinkpieces on the need for clean energy solutions like nuclear energy.” Good Energy Collective n.d.


[30] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-09-27.


[31] For more information on Third Way’s policy wins, please see our shallow dive report on Third Way Institute (forthcoming), the 501(c)(3) arm of Third Way.


[32] “The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today released a report showing that hundreds of U.S. coal power plant sites could convert to nuclear power plant sites, adding new jobs, increasing economic benefit, and significantly improving environmental conditions.” "DOE Report Finds Hundreds of Retiring Coal Plant Sites Could Convert to Nuclear" 2022. We note that DOE’s estimate of the number of available sites is higher than GEC’s estimate of 79 sites. “Even through extensive downselection of coal facilities, we identify 79 sites that have good conditions to at least consider advanced nuclear power as a replacement technology.” "Opportunities for Coal Communities Through Nuclear Energy: An Early Look" 2021.


[33] “We find that nuclear energy is a low-salience issue for the American public. Most people think about nuclear energy only when pollsters ask them to offer an opinion about it. When asked, about as many people express support for nuclear energy as opposition, but few have strong opinions… Insofar as public opinion about nuclear energy is polarized, that polarization has been cued by political elites. Elite opinion toward nuclear energy (in contrast to public attitudes) has been characterized by strong, consistent, and ideologically coherent attitudes. From the 1960s onward, elite opinion became increasingly fractured along the fault lines of cultural worldviews. Nuclear energy became absorbed into this polarization of elite opinion, and public opinion followed suit. Egalitarian worldviews aligned with the anti-nuclear sentiment, and hierarchical/individualist worldviews aligned with nuclear support. On both sides of the divide, polarization increased with education and political engagement.” Breakthrough Institute 2021.


[34] “Three key guiding principles for communicating about nuclear energy emerged from this analysis: Principle 1: Highlight benefits rather than dismissing risks… Principle 2: Shift the prototype to advanced technologies… Principle 3: Target egalitarian elites…” "Nuclear Cognition" 2021


[35] “Gratitude also goes to reviewers who provided valuable feedback on an earlier draft, including Armond Cohen, Baruch Fischhoff, Kirsty Gogan, Jeremy Gordon, Malcolm Grimston, Kuhika Gupta, and Jessica Lovering.” "Nuclear Cognition" 2021


[36] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-09-28.


[37] Representative Bowman: “House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Congressman Bowman serves as the Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy in the 117th Congress.” "Committees and Caucuses" n.d.. Representative Levin: “Today, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced it is awarding $16 million Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA) helped secure to communities that may be willing to host spent nuclear fuel, including the waste at San Onofre.” "Department of Energy Awards Funding Rep. Mike Levin Secured to Advance Consent-Based Storage of Nuclear Waste" 2022


[38] To assess the likelihood of no Democratic trifecta, we primarily relied on FiveThirtyEight 2022 election forecasts. Though likelihoods varied over time, forecasts have consistently predicted that Democrats would lose the trifecta. For example, a 2022-11-01 forecast (Wayback Internet Archive) estimated an 18% chance that Democrats win both chambers.


[39] A poll by Green Advocacy Project found that 32 percent of respondents who identified as Democrats believed that increasing the use of nuclear power was “either essential to climate policy” or not essential but would help.” In contrast, 50 percent of Republicans agreed with either of those sentiments. "Americans love clean energy. Do they care if it includes nuclear?" 2019


[40] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-09-27.


[41] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-10-19.


[42] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-09-27.


[43] “Regulatory Engagement: We submitted comments on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s review of its environmental justice guidelines, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council’s January 2022 public meeting, the Office of Nuclear Energy’s consent-based siting process for identifying a location for interim nuclear waste storage, and the Council on Environmental Quality’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool.” "Our Second Anniversary: Two Years of Building the Progressive Case for Nuclear Energy" 2022


[44] “Korea skipped the early, small-scale demonstration phase and went straight to importing a large commercial reactor. In its first phase of construction, Korea continued to import several reactor designs from American, French, and Canadian companies, a total of 9 between 1972 and 1993.” Lovering, Yip, Nordhaus 2016.


[45] Conditions in South Korea: “The latest experience in South Korea, with its standardized design and stable regulatory regime, suggests the possibility of learning-by-doing in nuclear power.” Decreased costs: “Overall, from the first reactor in Korea in 1971, costs fell by 50%, or an annual rate of decline of 2% for the entire Korean nuclear construction history.” Lovering, Yip, Nordhaus 2016.


[46] “We show that the introduction of nuclear power can largely be explained by contextual variables such as the proximity of a country to a major technology supplier (‘ease of diffusion’), the size of the economy, electricity demand growth, and energy import dependence (‘market attractiveness’). The lack of nuclear newcomers in the early 1990s can be explained by the lack of countries with high growth in electricity demand and sufficient capacities to build their first nuclear power plant, either on their own or with international help.” Brutschin, Cherp, Jewell 2021.


[47] “Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act generally requires the conclusion of a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement for significant transfers of nuclear material or equipment from the United States.” US Department of Energy 2022.


[48] As a heuristic to guide our research prioritization, we consider something to plausibly be within the range of cost-effectiveness we would consider for a top recommendation if its BOTEC-estimated cost-effectiveness is within an order of magnitude of $1/tCO2e (i.e., less than $10/tCO2e).


[49] We describe our confidence as low/medium/high to increase readability and avoid false precision. Since these terms can be interpreted differently, we use rough heuristics to define them as percentage likelihoods our takeaway (i.e., [not] plausibly within the range of cost-effectiveness we would consider recommending) is correct. Low = 0-50%, medium = 50-75%, high = 75-100%.


[50] Giving Green cares about organizations’ room for more funding beyond the next couple of years. Therefore, we see GEC’s room for more funding as being larger than its $100,000 gap for 2023.

[51] Grant size and funding period: “Good Energy Collective was awarded $600,000 in 2021, including 1 grant in Nuclear Challenges… 2 years 7 months” MacArthur Foundation n.d.. Conclusion of grant in 2024: Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-09-27.


[52] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-11-10.


[53] Prior support: “Our Partners: Good Energy Collective.” Pritzker Innovation Fund n.d.. Current funding support from Pritzker Innovation Fund: Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-11-10.


[54] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-10-17.


[55] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-10-17.


[56] Improved safety:  “Nuclear energy, for example, results in 99.9% fewer deaths than brown coal; 99.8% fewer than coal; 99.7% fewer than oil; and 97.6% fewer than gas. Wind and solar are just as safe.” https://ourworldindata.org/nuclear-energy. Reduced land use:  Figure “Land use of energy sources per unit of electricity.” We use the median value for “solar photovoltaic (PV), silicon,” “gas plant,” and “onshore wind” for our comparisons. https://ourworldindata.org/land-use-per-energy-source. Reduced electricity costs and risk of brownouts:  ““A study last year by Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that keeping Diablo Canyon open for 10 years could reduce the California power industry’s carbon emissions by more than 10 percent from 2017 levels and reduce reliance on natural gas. It also could save $2.6 billion in electricity costs and help prevent brownouts” "Nuclear Power Gets New Push in U.S., Winning Converts" 2022.


[57] Radioactive waste: Once the uranium is enriched, it can be used effectively as nuclear fuel in power plants for three to five years, after which it is still radioactive and has to be disposed of….The operation of nuclear power plants produces waste with varying levels of radioactivity.” "What is Nuclear Energy? The Science of Nuclear Power" 2022.


[58] We note that GEC’ is not solely focused on the US context. One of its policy analysts works full time on supporting US civil nuclear exports. Correspondence with GEC, 2022-11-10.


[59] High-innovation countries: We defined high-innovation countries as ones that have high research research output, as measured by Nature Index. Nature Index 2022. Global advanced nuclear projects: We used Third Way’s map of advanced nuclear projects to determine which countries are working on advanced nuclear technologies. "2022 Advanced Nuclear Map: Charting a Breakout Year" 2022.


[60] Correspondence with Good Energy Collective, 2022-09-27.