SAN FRANCISCO —The construction of clean nuclear energy can serve as part of the solution to the future energy requirements of California, a nuclear energy industry leader told community leaders here today.
The state should take advantage of all conservation and efficiency measures, as well as employing renewables wherever possible, Nuclear Energy Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Frank L. “Skip” Bowman said in a speech to The Commonwealth Club of California. However, the state’s fast-growing population, its strong sense of environmental stewardship and its dynamic economy are factors that should lead Californians to consider new nuclear plant construction in addition to those measures.
“Today, over 40 percent of California’s electricity comes from natural gas, compared with the national average of 20 percent. There is reason for concern. This dependence subjects California’s economy to the punishing price volatility that afflicts our natural gas markets,” Bowman said.
Experts estimate that the United States will import 25 to 30 percent of its natural gas needs within 20 years, “most of it from countries that are prone to political and social instability,” Bowman warned.
Even with aggressive energy efficiency and conservation programs, Californians almost certainly will face a gap in electricity demand and supply, he said.
On top of a strong economy that portends increased electricity demand, the state’s population by 2030 is projected to grow by nearly 13 million people – a 37 percent increase – while electricity demand is estimated to increase nearly 75 percent.
“Here is the challenge. California has an increasing electricity appetite. Yet you have laws and a strong sense of environmental stewardship that limit your choices in electricity production options,” Bowman said.
Construction of three new nuclear plants by 2030 would enable the state to meet nearly 20 percent of the predicted growth in electricity demand between now and 2030, he said.
“Nuclear energy is our country’s only large-scale energy source capable of producing electricity around the clock while emitting no air pollutants or greenhouse gases during production. One hundred and four nuclear power plants generate 20 percent of this country’s electricity, and nuclear energy is the largest source – nearly 75 percent – of all emission-free electricity.” Bowman said.
“As a domestic energy technology with fuel from the United States and reliable trading partners, nuclear energy is essential to our nation’s energy security.”
The California Public Utility Commission recognized the value of nuclear energy last year when it approved capital improvement projects at California’s San Onofre and Diablo Canyon nuclear power stations. The four reactors at those two power plants provide about 13 percent of the state’s electricity supplies.
“Natural gas volatility would be even worse without nuclear energy in the generation mix,” he said.
He cited other attributes of nuclear energy, including:
Nuclear energy has the lowest electricity production costs, which in 2006 stood at 1.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, with coal at 2.4 cents, natural gas at 6.8 cents and petroleum at 9.6 cents.
Nuclear plants prevent carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that are annually equivalent to the CO2 emissions from nearly all passenger cars in the United States.
“Support and willingness to factually consider nuclear energy will be essential to California arriving at a well-thought-out energy plan,” Bowman said. “Equally important will be furthering the discourse with the broader business community, and the general public – both in California and throughout the country – on the role that nuclear energy can play in solving our energy crisis, preserving our air quality, and growing our economy.”
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry's policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available at http://www.nei.org.