Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference today, Energy Secretary Chu appeared for the full hour hour on Tom Ashbrook's "On Point." Towards the end of the show [42:20 mark] he was asked about the future of nuclear energy in the U.S. Click here for the full audio. A rush transcript is below.
Tom Ashbrook: Here’s a question from the Web, Mr. Secretary: “Does the oil spill have any implications for nuclear’s future expansion in the US? France has obviously shown it to be effective, but are there still the same low probability, high impact consequences associated with nuclear that come with drilling for oil a mile beneath the ocean surface.” You’ve pushed for more nuclear. What about the risks that come with it?
Sec. Chu: Well, here again, I think, when...we want very much to restart the nuclear industry. The nuclear reactors today, we believe, are far safer than the ones that were built 20 and 30 years ago. The really old style of reactors, for example the Chernobyl style, we have helped...Russia’s been very good about this, and all those types that have a weakness, those things are being shut down. So, but nevertheless what we are driving for in nuclear reactors is something that is passively safe. And by passively safe I mean, you’d lose...you know, the electrical systems break down in a nuclear power plant. Can you design a nuclear reactor that essentially will never melt down? And we are working towards those designs now. And so, right now, the first hurdle is...the last nuclear reactors that were built in the United States took a long time to get approved and built. That long time of building and approving meant that you had a lot of invested capital that was not generating revenues. And, so, the first issue is, can we build this new generation of very safe reactors on time, on schedule. On budget. If you can, the economics look very good. And this is why we started a loan guarantee program with the intent of helping industry in the first six, seven, eight reactors with a guarantee that is self-financed. Meaning, that the U.S. government backs it up, but the, we have to convince the OMB that this loan, effectively a loan insurance, a credit subsidy that’s paid for by the company that wants to build the reactor, doesn’t cost the taxpayer any money.