In a five minute video-taped address to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) on Thursday President Bush said "There is a growing consensus that nuclear power is a key part of a clean, secure energy future. To maintain our economic leadership and strengthen our energy security, America must start building nuclear power plants."
He identified several steps that his administration has taken to encourage greater use of nuclear energy. These include:
-- Launching the Department of Energy's Nuclear Power 2010 initiative - an industry-government, cost-sharing program to test the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's new licensing process for new nuclear plants.
-- Proposing federal legislation, now under consideration by Congress, to advance DOE's nuclear waste management program, including provisions "to move forward with licensing, construction and operation" of the planned geologic repository for used nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, Nev.
-- Signing into law the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a measure that includes technology-neutral loan guarantees for clean-air energy sources, production tax credits for a limited number of new nuclear plants, and limited "standby support" insurance to counter the business risk of delays in new plant construction that are beyond the control of electric utilities.
Over the past year, 10 companies have announced plans to file license applications with the NRC for as many as 20 new nuclear power plants. NEI's Chairman Anthony F. Earley Jr., identified the business and political conditions that bode well for new nuclear plants, including:
-- Industry-average production costs of 1.7 cents per kilowatt-hour remain the lowest among all forms of energy except for hydroelectric facilities and represent a 33 percent decline over the past 10 years.
-- Capacity factors-a measure of efficiency-averaged about 90 percent for the fifth year in a row.
-- The industry produced 782 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2005, the second-highest ever.
The industry also is enjoying broad public support as evidenced by recent polls showing 75 percent approval for new nuclear plants in general and nearly 80 percent approval from people living within a 10 mile radius of current plants. Support also is coming from public officials.
We must maintain our nuclear technology by proceeding with the program to build a few new nuclear plants to demonstrate the safety of a new generation of plants and to iron out the wrinkles in the plants and settle the law suites associated with the new regulatory process for the approval of nuclear plants. We are facing a need for new sources of power and must keep our options open as to what technology to use. Renewable energy is unlikely to ever account for over 40-50% of our electric power needs (unless an affordable energy storage system is developed) and at the present time coal and nuclear are are only other options. Coal power is much more expensive than nuclear and it will further increase as sequestration of carbon emissions is demanded. Whether we power our cars by batteries or fuel cells, generation capacity will eventually be impacted (it will not be impacted initially because both fuel cells and batteries can be recharged at night from off-peak power, which may be sufficient for a decade).
U.S. 'Must Start Building Nuclear Power Plants,' President Bush Tells Industry Executives, U.S. Newswire, May 18, 2006