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Nuclear Energy Institute
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 20, 2009
Contact: media@nei.org, 202.739.8000 or 703.644.8805 (after hours and weekends)

Majority Whip Clyburn, Sens. Bennett, Murkowski, Nelson Stress Need for Nuclear

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Nuclear energy elicited support from congressional leaders on a bipartisan basis today at the Nuclear Energy Institute’s annual conference here. Nuclear energy elicited support from congressional leaders on a bipartisan basis today at the Nuclear Energy Institute’s annual conference here.

House Majority Whip James Clyburn and Sens. Robert Bennett, Ben Nelson and Lisa Murkowski all voiced strong support for nuclear energy as a technology that, based on its proven performance, can enhance U.S. energy security by reliably supplying cost-competitive electricity from a source that does not emit greenhouse gases.

Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, is the House’s third-ranking Democrat, and his words of support echoed the sentiments expressed at the conference yesterday by the chamber’s second-ranking Democrat, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

Bennett, a Utah Republican, is the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. Nelson, a two-term Nebraska Democrat, sits on the Appropriations Committee and was a member of the “Gang of 10” that worked last year to develop bipartisan energy legislation. Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, is the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“The climate change legislation (under consideration in the House Energy and Commerce Committee) must recognize the vital role of nuclear energy. We cannot solve this issue of climate change without a renewed commitment to nuclear energy,” Clyburn said.

Clyburn’s comments came a day after the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 51-6 to approve a amendment by Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, to establish Clean Energy Deployment Technology Administration for funding advanced clean energy technologies, including nuclear energy.

One hundred and four nuclear power plants operating in 31 states provide nearly 75 percent of the electricity generated by carbon-free sources, even though nuclear plants constitute only 10 percent of the nation’s total electric generating capacity.
 
Citing the world’s rising population, the value of desalinization plants that can produce clean water supplies and the need to rising electricity demands, Bennett said, “Alternatives that can provide abundant energy and keep it affordable thus become a tremendously important economic factor as we look forward to the challenges we have ahead of us. Let’s get going on nuclear plants in quantity because the kind of quantity that I see in the Promised Land (of a clean energy future) is 20 to 30 years away.”

Nelson described nuclear energy as a technology vital to a two-phased transition in U.S. energy policy―first, a shift away from the Middle East as the source of energy supplies and, second, a shift away from fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases and controlled pollutants into the atmosphere.

Noting that license applications for 26 possible new reactors are pending before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, he said, “We know we need to build far more than that, and with loan guarantees and with an expedited (licensing) process and cookie-cutter plants, we can put ourselves in a position to transition away from fossil fuels.”

Referencing the favorable comments that conference attendees heard from members of Congress who preceded her, Murkowski said, “I am pleased to hear that the message on nuclear has been a good one. We need the message on nuclear energy to be a good one. In fact, it needs to be more than just a message. It needs to be the follow-through. It needs to be the commitment that this nation needs to make to nuclear as part of our energy policy.”