Andrew Yang is the STEM Candidate, and He is Right About Nuclear
Every Presidential election cycle, there is a poll that asks a group of voters, “Which candidate would you most like to have a beer with?” This has been a useful poll, because it shows which candidates are approachable and relatable, which presumably translates to electability and higher favorability ratings. However, in the age of artificial intelligence, climate change, and automation, maybe we should be asking voters which candidate they would trust most to solve a math or science problem.
Elections are often compared to high school popularity contests, but many voters want a smarter candidate now more than ever. Voters care less about having a beer with candidates and more about the intellectual capacity of candidates. This makes sense, as the societal problems we are facing now are increasingly complex and interconnected. So, what kind of academic background would be most useful right now? The answer is of course a STEM background, someone that has studied Science, Technology, Engineering, and/or Mathematics.
There is no shortage of elected officials that have studied history and political science. If you look at the academic background of the United States Congress, it is mostly political science and history. Likewise, the current field of Democratic candidates for President is made up of mostly political science and history majors. Vice President Biden studied history and political science at University of Delaware. Senator Klobuchar studied political science at Yale. Mayor Buttigieg studied history and literature at Harvard. Senator Sanders studied political science at University of Chicago. Senator Warren actually didn’t study political science, as some might think. Her undergraduate degree was in speech pathology and audiology, which would probably be considered a STEM degree today.
Andrew Yang, as you might have expected, studied economics at Brown. This makes sense, as Andrew Yang’s campaign has been entirely about the economics of the 21st century. What is unique about economics is that it requires a command of math and statistics that political science and history do not. It is conceivable that Andrew Yang is the only candidate currently running for President to have taken calculus courses in college. Do you need to understand calculus to be the leader of the free world? No, but in the 21st century, it would most certainly help a President make better decisions.
Andrew Yang seems to be the only candidate that has a deep STEM background, and his platform is clearly the most scientifically and technologically focused. This makes sense. Andrew grew up in a STEM household. His father got his PhD in physics from Berkeley and worked for research labs at IBM and GE generating 69 patents. And, Andrew’s mother has a master’s degree in statistics. There is no question that the Yang household is a STEM household.
So, which candidate should we trust on the nuclear energy question? Andrew Yang is the only Presidential candidate to support building new nuclear power plants. Every other candidate on stage at the December Democratic Debate said they’d be against building new nuclear power plants. The self-proclaimed “climate candidate”, Tom Steyer, and the self-proclaimed “Millennial candidate”, Mayor Buttigieg, both voiced opposition to nuclear. Senator Warren also voiced opposition to building new nuclear power plants. Rest assured, Andrew Yang has done the math, and has concluded that we need to keep nuclear on the table.
Why don’t the other candidates support new nuclear power plants? Well, they are politicians, and they are simply reacting to the concerns of the people. When it comes to nuclear, most people are concerned about four things — 1) safety, 2) storing nuclear waste, 3) human error, and 4) nuclear proliferation. Andrew Yang addresses this on his website.
When the OECD, NEA, and NASA analyzed the actual danger of nuclear energy compared to other sources, they found that it caused orders of magnitude fewer deaths than fossil fuel-based energy. And that’s not even considering the long-term impact of climate change from burning fossil fuels.
With modern reactors, safety is drastically increased, and nuclear waste is drastically decreased. After the completion of the Manhattan Project, America explored the option of using thorium as a potential source for civilian nuclear power. There is roughly 3 times more thorium on Earth than uranium, and we are already mining it as a byproduct of other rare-earth element mining. Thorium mining is substantially safer than uranium mining, and thorium reactors produce less waste than uranium reactors
Why did we go with uranium instead of thorium in the 1940s? Uranium is used in nuclear weapons; thorium isn’t. Yet another benefit to using thorium as a power source! Nuclear isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s a solid solution for now, and a technology we should invest in as we move to a future powered primarily by renewable energy.
Andrew Yang isn’t the only person that thinks we should build more nuclear power plants. Bill Gates has also been a proponent of advancing thorium reactors. In his last annual letter, Bill Gates said, “Nuclear is ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day… The problems with today’s reactors, such as the risk of accidents, can be solved through innovation.”
We need a clean source of electricity that produces even when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. We should of course pursue utility, commercial, and residential scale battery storage. But, we shouldn’t put all our eggs in the battery storage basket. We need to at least pilot the thorium reactors that Bill Gates is investing in. We need to listen to Bill Gates and Andrew Yang. Nuclear energy might be the best and quickest way to achieve our climate goals.
“On nuclear power, I agree with the research. We need to have everything on the table in a crisis situation, which this is. Other countries have had success with nuclear power, and the next generation thorium reactors have a wealth of potential. Thorium is not radioactive the way uranium is. It doesn’t last as long, and you can’t make a weapon out of it. If we are going to innovate our way out of this, then we have to have nuclear on the table.” — Andrew Yang