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Clay Sell on the Bush Nuclear Energy Policy

We just got hold of the remarks made by Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell at yesterday's NuStart press conference. No link was available, so we've reproduced the text here in full:
It is an honor to be here today on behalf of President Bush and Secretary Bodman… to take part in an event that could lead to a more secure energy future for our nation.

The companies that make up the Nustart Consortium are among the world’s top operators of nuclear facilities, and are well-positioned to build the first new nuclear power plants in the United States in nearly three decades.

There is no better time for a renaissance of nuclear power in this country. Our growing dependence on foreign energy… and increasing concerns about air emissions… make nuclear power’s advantages over other methods of electricity production more pronounced than ever.

Nuclear power is the only technology we currently have that can reliably produce base-load electricity without any pollution or greenhouse gas emissions. The 103 nuclear plants operating in our country today provide electricity for one in every five American homes and businesses.

But during their development and construction, the builders of many of these plants – which include some of the companies here today – endured major financial and regulatory problems. Many plants cost billions more than originally projected… and took years longer to complete than anticipated. As a result, nuclear power projects became too risky to finance… and nuclear construction in the United States ground to a halt.

But many things have changed since then. Advances in technology and management improvements have made U.S. nuclear power plants some of the safest and most cost-effective industrial facilities we have. And new reactor designs will make the next generation of plants even safer and more efficient than the current fleet. As President Bush said in a recent speech, “It’s time to start building again.”

Unfortunately, the high development costs, regulatory uncertainties, and licensing concerns of the past remain in place… making it difficult for companies to commit to new nuclear construction. But if no new plants are built... nuclear power’s current 20 percent of U.S. electricity production will drop to 14 percent by 2025… and then toward zero as the current plants are retired. Secretary Bodman recently said that allowing nuclear power to undergo such a decline in the United States would be economically and environmentally irresponsible.

Making sure that nuclear power is a viable part of our future energy mix is the goal of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Power 2010 Program. The NuStart Consortium is a direct outgrowth of this program… which is designed to work with industry in a 50/50 cost-shared arrangement to demonstrate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s new “one-step” licensing process, identify suitable sites for new plants, and certify new state-of-the-art designs. This would help pave the way for an industry decision to build new advanced light-water reactors in the United States in the next few years.

In addition to this program, the President has proposed further regulatory reforms, along with risk insurance for the first new plants that come on-line. Beyond these efforts, we also need to address the issues of spent nuclear fuel and continued political opposition to nuclear power.

On the subject of spent fuel, I want to emphasize that the President and his Administration are committed to completing the Yucca Mountain project… which will remove another major impediment to a revival of nuclear construction in this country – a revival that has taken a giant step forward with the NuStart Consortium’s selection of finalist sites for the first new plants.

Thank you again for inviting me today… and congratulations on achieving such a significant milestone in this important effort.
For more on the Nuclear Power 2010 program, drop by Searching for the Truth.

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Anonymous said…
How much of the increase in costs of the 1970's nuclear plants was due to frivolous lawsuits by the self-styled guardians of the environment, led by the likes of one Ms. J__e F___a, who learnt their physics from "The China Syndrome"? It is my view that if these activists had been required to pay the costs of their unsuccessful litigation, the costs of construction would not have blown out by billions. Nuclear power is safe, and in the West always was. TMI proved that containment works and is a prudent safety measure. If all the plants ordered in the 1970's had been built, the USA would not be diffident about acceding to Kyoto, we would already be producing less green house gases than in 1970 .

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