AUGUSTA, GA—Construction of new nuclear power plants during the next decade is essential to America’s energy security and, in turn, its national security, Nuclear Energy Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Skip Bowman said in a speech here tonight.
Globally, the link between reliable electricity supply and improved public health is another reason that Americans should support the widespread use of carbon-free energy technologies like nuclear energy, Bowman said.
Speaking to members of Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness, a grassroots organization that includes local business and community leaders, Bowman drew a direct nexus between quality of life issues and the availability of inexpensive and carbon-free sources of electricity. He also said the nearby Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., can play a key role in helping to shape a stronger energy future both domestically and internationally.
“In the United States and around the world, we are relaunching the nuclear energy industry to deliver the baseload electricity America and the world will need to power growing economies, lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and safeguard our environment for future generations,” Bowman said. “We know there is a direct correlation between a country’s per capita income and its people’s access to electricity ... between that access to electricity and infant mortality rates and between that access to electricity and life expectancy.”
Building upon the historical role of the Savannah River site over the past half century as part of the nation’s defense establishment, the complex can add to its legacy in the years ahead by applying its knowledge to civilian and commercial nuclear technology, Bowman said.
“I am convinced that Savannah River can make an enormous contribution because the vision for nuclear energy’s future plays to this institution’s core competencies,” he said.
Bowman warned that today’s U.S. energy situation is approaching crisis proportions. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused the shutdown of 50 percent of natural gas production and 60 percent of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, rising oil and natural gas prices could impact electricity consumers in Florida, New England and along the West Coast through “significant increases in electricity prices.”
Short-sighted U.S. energy policy has severely stressed the country’s energy supply and delivery infrastructure, Bowman noted.
“We are paying the price today for our inability to strike a balance between what was expedient and easy in the short-term and what was prudent, but more difficult, for the long-term” in energy policy decision-making, Bowman said. “But thanks to conditions in our energy markets, our political leaders and policymakers have rediscovered the benefits of nuclear energy and have concluded that we must build substantial numbers of new nuclear plants in the years ahead.”
Bowman said the nuclear industry is encouraged by provisions in the Energy Policy Act that was signed into law in August. The legislation provides “stimulus for investment in the new electric power infrastructure, including a new generation of nuclear plants,” and investment protection for the first six reactors built “in the event of delay in the regulatory process beyond the industry’s control.”
He also noted that the continued safety and performance of nuclear power plants, and used nuclear fuel management are two significant prerequisites to new plant construction.
As for used nuclear fuel management, Bowman emphasized that the Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository site for nuclear fuel disposal is “suitable for long-term isolation and management of used nuclear fuel.” He also noted that while a permanent disposal facility does not have to be operational in order to start building new reactors, “we do believe that we must have a plausible program in place that is making visible progress.”
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org.