climate change

Do you support building more nuclear power plants?

Yes, expand nuclear power

Yes, expand nuclear power

Michael Bennet (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet is no longer running for president. Bennet supports “advanced nuclear,” he told The Post. He co-sponsored the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act.

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Michael Bennet
Bennet

Cory Booker (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New Jersey

Booker is no longer running for president. “I support the development of next-generation advanced nuclear reactors,” Booker told The Post. “I believe that our best chance to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees is by investing in a wide range of zero emission, clean energy alternatives.” In his climate plan, Booker pledged $20 billion toward advanced nuclear research, saying “dozens of innovative U.S. companies are investing in developing and commercializing next generation technologies with the potential to be more versatile and resilient than our existing fleet while generating less waste.” He co-sponsored the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act. “People who think that we can get there without nuclear being part of the blend just aren’t looking at the facts,” Booker said at a CNN climate town hall.

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Cory Booker
Booker

John Delaney (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

Delaney is no longer running for president. “Yes, if you're serious about fighting climate change you have to be pro-nuclear energy,” Delaney told The Post.

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John Delaney
Delaney

John Hickenlooper (Dropped out)

Former governor, Colorado

Hickenlooper is no longer running for president. Hickenlooper supports constructing new nuclear plants “but there has to be a stronger effort to solve the problem of disposal of high-level radioactive waste,” he told the New York Times.

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John Hickenlooper
Hickenlooper

Seth Moulton (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Massachusetts

Moulton is no longer running for president. “Yes, I support building new nuclear power plants,” Moulton told The Post. “Nuclear energy is a carbon-free source of electricity that could provide far more energy to the grid than current levels. We should be investing in the newest and safest generation of nuclear power ever developed. We also need to be investing in clean-energy moonshot ideas. For example, there is a nuclear fusion concept that could deliver essentially endless energy from seawater.”

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Seth Moulton
Moulton

Tim Ryan (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Ohio

Ryan is no longer running for president. “Yes. I support expanding nuclear energy due to its proven success in reducing carbon in the atmosphere,” Ryan told The Post. “But we can't continue to use old, out of date technology. I support increased investment in research and development to find innovative ways to build safer and more efficient nuclear power plants.”

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Tim Ryan
Ryan

Andrew Yang (Dropped out)

Tech entrepreneur

Yang is no longer running for president. “To me, nuclear energy needs to be on the table in a transition to a more renewable economy, because our society consumes a great deal of energy,” Yang told a CNN climate town hall. “And nuclear, right now, it gets a bad rap, in part because the technologies we’re using are antiquated. ... [W]e are working on these new generation nuclear reactors that use thorium, instead of uranium. And thorium is not natively fissile or radioactive, so the odds of a catastrophe dropped precipitously. It's much, much safer to dispose of. It produces much more energy. So we need to upgrade the thorium-fueled reactors. And, to me, though, trying to get rid of all the nuclear power plants that produce 20 percent of the nation’s energy is not going to help us accomplish our goals.” Yang’s campaign website said he will “work to make it easier for new nuclear plants to open up in appropriate areas to increase the amount of nuclear energy America uses. ... The reality is that nuclear power is one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly paths forward to a more sustainable future.”

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Andrew Yang
Yang

No new plants at this time

No new plants at this time

Mike Bloomberg (Dropped out)

Former New York mayor

Bloomberg is no longer running for president. “No new plants at this time,” Bloomberg told The Post. “We urgently need to move off fossil fuels, and nuclear (which currently makes up 20% of our energy mix) will play a role in that transition. My priority as president will be to move us off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. During that time, we will maintain a safe, reliable nuclear presence and not prematurely retire existing nuclear plants. The vast majority of our investment will be in renewables like wind and solar, as well as research and development to ramp up renewable energy and storage.”

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Mike Bloomberg
Bloomberg

Steve Bullock (Dropped out)

Governor, Montana

Bullock is no longer running for president. “No, I do not support building new nuclear power plants at this time,” Bullock told The Post. “I believe there are a number of proven technologies available to deliver cost-effective, zero-emissions energy solutions that can be used to power every part of our economy without expanding the nuclear fleet.”

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Steve Bullock
Bullock

Pete Buttigieg (Dropped out)

Former mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg is no longer running for president. “Building new nuclear plants in the US is not a sustainable long-term answer to fighting climate change, but nuclear will remain a significant source of carbon free power in the short to medium term,” Buttigieg told The Post.

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Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Julian Castro (Dropped out)

Former mayor, San Antonio

Castro is no longer running for president. Castro does not support building new plants at this time. “Not until we tighten nuclear safety and waste disposal systems and find appropriate technologies to address the challenges with waste disposal,” he told The Post.

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Julian Castro
Castro

Bill de Blasio (Dropped out)

Mayor, New York City

de Blasio is no longer running for president. “No new plants at this time,” de Blasio told The Post.

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Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

Jay Inslee (Dropped out)

Governor, Washington state

Inslee is no longer running for president. “We must move to a carbon-free power sector, so I would not take any zero-emission sources of power generation off the table,” Inslee told The Post. “However, in order to support new development of nuclear energy, we would first have to solve critical challenges that do not yet have solutions. ... My focus would be first and foremost on investing in the expansion of renewables, efficiency, smart grid and energy storage technologies, as I have called for in my 100% Clean Energy for America Plan.”

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Jay Inslee
Inslee

Deval Patrick (Dropped out)

Former governor, Massachusetts

Patrick is no longer running for president. Patrick does not support building new nuclear power plants at this time, a campaign spokesperson told The Post.

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Deval Patrick
Patrick

Joe Sestak (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

Sestak is no longer running for president. “No new uranium/plutonium plants at this time; however, I am not opposed to it after we complete research into the viability of what would be much safer thorium reactors that produce little hazardous waste and would mitigate nuclear weapons proliferation concerns,” Sestak told The Post.

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Joe Sestak
Sestak

Tom Steyer (Dropped out)

Billionaire activist

Steyer is no longer running for president. “We should have no new plants at this time,” Steyer told The Post. “Nuclear energy is not cheap, it has suffered from massive cost overruns and have required massive government bailouts. The disposal of waste poses dangers. I would love it if we could have a safe nuclear program that produces no carbon dioxide emissions as well as safe, abundant, cheap energy — but the reality is that it doesn’t exist. Renewable energy like wind and solar are the least costly forms of energy to produce, and the costs are continuing to drop everyday. Renewable energy is the better bet.”

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Tom Steyer
Steyer

Eric Swalwell (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, California

Swalwell is no longer running for president. “I don't support nuclear energy in its current form, though I do favor more advanced approaches like fusion energy,” Swalwell told The Post. “We need to look forward, not back, and the United States should be the leader in all advanced low-carbon energy. I’m not in favor of phasing out our current plants yet; doing so in Japan and Germany led to higher carbon emissions.”

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Eric Swalwell
Swalwell

No and let’s phase out nuclear power

No and let’s phase out nuclear power

Tulsi Gabbard (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard is no longer running for president. “No, I do not support new nuclear power plants and am in favor of phasing out nuclear power,” Gabbard told The Post. She said she supports ending “subsidies or waivers to the nuclear power industry, which should itself be completely responsible for paying for its own insurance and paying the long term cost for safe storage of nuclear waste over centuries.”

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Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Bernie Sanders (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Vermont

Sanders is no longer running for president. “[Sanders] will stop the building of new nuclear power plants and find a real solution to our existing nuclear waste problem,” a campaign spokesman told The Post. “He will also enact a moratorium on nuclear power plant license renewals in the United States. [Sanders] believes that solar, wind, geothermal power and energy efficiency are proven and more cost-effective than nuclear — even without tax incentives — and that the toxic waste byproducts of nuclear plants are not worth the risks of the technology’s benefit. Especially in light of lessons learned from Japan’s Fukushima meltdown, we must ask why the federal government invests billions into federal subsidies for the nuclear industry.” At a CNN climate town hall, Sanders said, “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to add more dangerous waste to this country and to the world when we don’t know how to get rid of what we have right now.”

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Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Elizabeth Warren (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

Warren is no longer running for president. Warren's campaign confirmed her support for phasing out nuclear power in mid-November. Warren “believes we should not build more nuclear power plants and that we should phase out nuclear power and replace it with renewable energy,” a campaign spokesperson said. “In my administration, we’re not going to build any new nuclear power plants, and we are going to start weaning ourselves off nuclear energy and replacing it with renewable fuels over — we’re going to get it all done by 2035, but I hope we’re getting it done faster than that,” she said at a CNN climate town hall in September.

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Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Marianne Williamson (Dropped out)

Author

Williamson is no longer running for president. "Transition away from the domestic use of nuclear energy. We do not need nuclear energy to fulfill our energy needs," Williamson's campaign site said.

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Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Unclear/No response

Unclear/No response

Joe Biden

Former vice president

“To address the climate emergency threatening our communities, economy, and national security, we must look at all low- and zero-carbon technologies,” Biden’s climate change plan said. “That’s why Biden will support a research agenda through ARPA-C to look at issues, ranging from cost to safety to waste disposal systems, that remain an ongoing challenge with nuclear power today.” The campaign did not directly answer this question.

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Joe Biden
Biden

Kirsten Gillibrand (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New York

Gillibrand is no longer running for president. Gillibrand did not provide an answer to this question by publication.

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Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand

Kamala D. Harris (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, California

Harris is no longer running for president. “So the biggest issue that I believe we face in terms of nuclear energy is the waste and what are we going to do with that,” Harris said at a CNN climate town hall. “We have to make sure that this is not about the federal government coming in and ... making decisions about what each state can do in terms of the nuclear waste issue which is the biggest part of the concern about nuclear energy.” When pressed, Harris did not agree to phasing out nuclear power. Her campaign had not clarified her position by publication.

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Kamala Harris
Harris

Amy Klobuchar (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar is no longer running for president. “So when it comes to those technologies, I think storage is an issue. I know Senator Harris was just talking about this with nuclear. But I would look at all the plants we have right now. It is about 20 percent of our energy and as you know, it doesn’t emit carbon,” Klobuchar said at a CNN climate town hall. “So I would look at those plants and make sure they’re safe and figure out what upgrades we have to make to the plants, but I wouldn't expand nuclear unless we can find safe storage and figure this out. And Yucca Mountain is not the answer.” Her campaign did not provide a direct answer to The Post by publication.

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Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Beto O'Rourke (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Texas

O'Rourke is no longer running for president. O’Rourke did not provide an answer to this question by publication.

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Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke

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Background Nuclear power remains the nation’s largest carbon-neutral energy source, but it faces an uncertain future. The accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima have caused concern about the safety of the industry and halted new construction in many countries. Of the 97 U.S. commercial nuclear reactors active as of June 2019, 11 are scheduled for retirement by 2025, including Three Mile Island’s remaining reactor, which shut down this year. Only one new reactor, at the Watts Bar plant in Tennessee, began operating in the past 20 years, and two new reactors are under construction at the Vogtle plant in Georgia, with loan guarantees received from both the Obama and Trump administrations. Still unresolved are questions of how and where we can safely store nuclear waste.

An aging fleet of nuclear reactors

59 out of the 97 currently licensed U.S. reactors would face retirement by 2040 without license renewal.

Under construction

Licensed to operate

1980

2019

2060

2000

2040

11 reactors are scheduled

to retire by 2025

Sources: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Energy Information Administration

An aging fleet of nuclear reactors

59 out of the 97 currently licensed U.S. reactors would face retirement by 2040 without license renewal.

Licensed to operate

Under construction

1980

2000

2019

2040

2060

11 reactors are scheduled

to retire before 2025

Sources: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Energy Information Administration

An aging fleet of nuclear reactors

59 out of the 97 currently licensed U.S. reactors would face retirement by 2040 without license renewal.

Licensed to operate

Under construction

1980

2000

2019

2040

2060

11 reactors are scheduled

to retire by 2025

Sources: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Energy Information Administration

How we compiled candidate positions

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic campaign asking whether they support various climate change policies. We organized candidates with similar stances into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town halls and other news reports. See something that we missed? Let us know.

This page will update as we learn more about the candidates’ plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president. If a candidate dropped out after a question was published here, their stance is included under the "Show former candidates" option. If they dropped out before a question was first published, the Post did not reach out to get their stance.

Candidate illustrations by Ben Kirchner.