Wednesday, September 09, 2009

From a Position of Strength: NEI on the Energy Bill

bg_headhill We’d be remiss not to note an exceptionally good op-ed from NEI’s President and CEO, Marv Fertel, over at the Hill. He actually returns focus to the energy bill, which has been hibernating after passing the House while health care took center stage, and proposes some ideas that bolster the nuclear energy industry without breaking the bank at Monte Carlo. The timing’s about right – energy will return to view in the next few weeks – so let’s look at the bullet points:

• Ensure that the volume of loan guarantees available for new reactors is comparable to other carbon-free electricity sources and refining the Department of Energy loan guarantee program in key areas that are slowing implementation of the program;

• Provide new tax stimulus for investment in new nuclear energy facilities, new nuclear component manufacturing and workforce development;

• Expand the existing production tax credit to all new reactors that produce electricity by 2021;

• Reduce the time to market for advanced reactors to six years from nine to 10 years by enacting clarifications to ensure that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s licensing process works as intended; and

• Mandate creation of a blue ribbon commission to re-examine management options for used nuclear fuel, and establishing incentives for state and communities to develop consolidated storage facilities for used nuclear fuel.

And he takes it for granted that the industry provides a plethora of benefits beyond low cost, no emissions electricity. We’ll let you read all that over at The Hill. Well, we will include this:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in its analysis of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, found that the contribution of low- or zero-carbon energy technologies to electricity supply must increase to 38 percent by 2050 from the current 14 percent. An additional 180 nuclear power plants (104 operate today) will be needed to meet the legislation’s emissions targets, the EPA said.

Just in case you wondered how the United States can plausibly achieve ambitious carbon reduction goals and why government should materially acknowledge the nuclear energy industry to achieve those goals.

It also helps explain why Fertel’s bullet points are more aggressive than we’ve seen from other commentators (though, really, no more so than any other energy source advocates, justified or no, would like to see.) Nuclear power is, perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, working from a position of some strength these days. Flexing the muscles seems a plausible exercise in policy building.

Okay, okay, we know we’re engaging in a bit of log rolling here, but good is good and This Is The Best Op-Ed Ever. (We’ll take that bonus in small bills.)

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