The value of the US nuclear power complex to US national security

Robert F. Ichford, Bart Oosterveld
Content Type
Policy Brief
Atlantic Council
In this analysis, the Atlantic Council has set out to estimate the value that the civilian nuclear power sector contributes to the United States’ national security apparatus. Based on a series of inputs, this analysis and conservative estimation found that the nuclear power complex contributes an equivalent of more than $42.4 billion to US national security, as broadly defined. In other words, the lack of a civilian nuclear sector would present an immediate and significant economic shock (and impact on the labor force)—which, in turn, would have immediate and longer-term budgetary implications for the US government. The definition of national security can be viewed narrowly or more broadly, in terms of both the scope of the institutional assets and providers of national security services and the types of functions or services they undertake. This analysis includes both nuclear utilities and nuclear generators, as well as US military and defense facilities, as providing critical national security functions. The utilities and generators provide secure and reliable electricity, accounting for 19.3 percent of total US electricity generation in 2018, and they contribute significantly to the diversified energy-generation mix that the United States enjoys. There are three main reasons for public support of the civilian nuclear industry for national security purposes, which are identified in the analysis that follows. The reasons are 1. the civilian nuclear industry generates a vast investment in human capital, which is a necessary condition for all applications of nuclear energy in the national security apparatus; 2. the civilian nuclear industry and its associated supply chain provide critical risk mitigation and procurement safety to the national security apparatus; and 3. the civilian nuclear industry’s value to national security priorities related to climate change.
Energy Policy, National Security, Nuclear Power, Economy, Business
Political Geography
North America, United States of America