WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Nuclear Energy Institute this week is sharing with federal lawmakers a comprehensive package of policy initiatives required to facilitate the expansion of nuclear energy in coming decades on the scale that independent analyses conclude is required to ensure a reliable supply of electricity generation that complies with stringent limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
A major expansion of nuclear energy generation requires federal policy in a number of areas, including:
• new plant financing, principally through creation of a Clean Energy Deployment Administration that would function as a permanent financing platform;
• tax incentives for nuclear energy manufacturing and production facilities, and work force development;
• ensuring effective achievement of the efficiencies in the new-plant licensing process that was established in 1992 but is only now being tested;
• management of used nuclear fuel, including limited financial incentives for the development of voluntary interim storage facilities for used uranium fuel;
• nuclear fuel supply, to enhance the certainty and transparency associated with the disposition of government inventories on uranium markets; and
• other areas, such as creation of a National Nuclear Energy Council to advise the Secretary of Energy and authorization of a cost-shared, public-private partnership to advance development and deployment of small modular reactors within the next 15 years.
The nuclear energy industry has developed the set of legislative policy initiatives amid an emerging consensus in Washington that robust provisions to expand the nuclear energy sector are one of the keys to enactment of federal legislation designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the threat of global climate change.
“If you want to address climate change and produce electricity, nuclear energy has got to be a significant part of the equation,” said NEI’s president and chief executive officer, Marvin Fertel. “Inclusion of a meaningful nuclear energy title by itself doesn’t get you to an agreement in Congress on climate change legislation. But at the same time, you can’t get there without it.”
One hundred and four reactors operating in 31 states provide one-fifth of the nation’s electricity. Because they produce electricity through fission rather than burning fuel, they also supply 72 percent of the electricity that comes from emission-free sources, including renewable technologies and hydroelectric power plants.
Over the past two years, license applications for as many as 25 new reactors that could be built over the next 15-20 years have been submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the industry anticipates that the first wave of new reactors will begin operating in the 2016-18 time frame.
Recognition of nuclear energy’s strategic role in cleanly supplying future electricity needs has grown as policy and energy experts have weighed alternatives to achieve significant emissions reductions by mid-century. H.R. 2454, the Waxman-Markey climate bill passed by the House of Representatives last June, and the Senate climate legislation unveiled in recent weeks by Sens. Barbara Boxer and John Kerry, both call for an 83 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The Environmental Protection Agency determined in its evaluation of the Waxman-Markey bill that under the core policy scenario to reduce emissions, nuclear power generation would increase 150 percent—the equivalent of 187 new reactors—by 2050.
The Electric Power Research Institute concluded this year that the potential exists for the electric sector to achieve a 41 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 by 2030 using a full portfolio of technologies that include 46 new reactors.
Similarly, the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, in its analysis of Waxman-Markey, determined that the basic scenario projects that the United States would need nearly 70 new reactors (totaling 96,000 megawatts of new generating capacity) by 2030.
For details on the legislative policy initiatives that NEI is disseminating to federal policymakers, see: http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/documentlibrary/newplants/policybrief/2009-nuclear-policy-initiative.