Kyushu Electric Power's Sendai nuclear power station is seen in Satsumasendai, Kagoshima prefecture, Japan, this month. (Issei Kato/Reuters)

The United States should take note of Japan’s recognition that nuclear energy is critical to its carbon reduction goals, especially in light of the Obama administration’s recently finalized Clean Power Plan [“A good nuclear move,” editorial, Aug. 20]. While we need an “all of the above” strategy that includes wind, nuclear, solar and hydroelectric energy to reduce air pollution, the significance of our existing nuclear fleet in helping generate carbon-free power cannot be overstated.

Last year, U.S. nuclear energy facilities produced nearly 20 percent of the country’s electricity supply. More important, in 2013 they accounted for 63 percent of carbon-free electricity. It will be very difficult for states to meet the mandates set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency without our existing nuclear assets. Unfortunately, there is a real risk that premature nuclear shutdowns, a result of nuclear not being properly valued for its reliability and carbon-free power, could hinder the ability of states to meet the EPA’s goals.

Policymakers in the United States should put their money where their mouth is: If reducing carbon emissions is one of our greatest priorities, they must address the market challenges that nuclear faces to avoid sleepwalking into an energy future where nuclear isn’t on the table and our goals of carbon reduction are so much harder to reach. 

Blanche Lincoln, Washington

The writer, a former Democratic U.S. senator from Arkansas, is a member of the leadership council of Nuclear Matters.