WASHINGTON—New nuclear power plants are an imperative for the successful implementation of a national energy policy, members of the House Energy and Commerce Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee were told at a hearing today.
“If the United States is to have an effective national energy policy, it must chart a path for a diverse energy mix that includes a strong role for nuclear energy,” said John Kane, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president of governmental affairs, in testimony before the panel. “We simply cannot meet the twin challenges of increased electricity production and fewer emissions without the reliable, affordable electricity that new nuclear plants will provide.
“America will need 50 percent more electricity by 2025 to fuel an ever-expanding economy while at the same time meeting even more stringent environmental goals,” Kane said. “Nuclear energy provides 70 percent of the emission-free electricity in the U.S. and is the only readily expandable source of clean energy.
“If Congress is going to provide an effective energy bill that will help wean us off foreign so urces of energy, it must recognize this fact and encourage through various incentives the development of those sources that can best help us reach our goals.”
Kane recommended that new energy legislation include provisions to help meet the challenges of adding baseload power plants, new transmission capability and other energy infrastructure. He also called for a variety of investment options and tax incentives to stimulate new baseload power plant construction in the U.S. These include investment tax credits, production tax credits similar to those already in place for wind generation, accelerated plant depreciation and a loan guarantee mechanism.
“Throughout our history the U.S. government has provided support for projects such as the transcontinental railroad and the space program that are deemed important to the national interest,” Kane said. “These incentives are investments in America’s future and will only be needed for the first few advanced-design nuclear plants. Once the licensing process for the initial plants has been shown to work, capital costs will decline and the private debt and equity markets will finance follow-on plants without federal assistance.”
Kane challenged Congress to accelerate progress toward the development and opening of the underground repository for used nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, Nev. Congress needs to expedite the Environmental Protection Agency’s determination of the radiation protection standard for the Yucca Mountain project to limit program delays, he said.
Kane urged that the Nuclear Waste Fund be reclassified so it does not have to compete with unrelated general budget programs. The fund is self-financed by electricity customers at about $750 million a year with the receipts specifically intended for the used nuclear fuel disposal program.
“The Yucca Mountain project is constantly being short-changed even though there is a $15 billion balance in the fund,” Kane said. “It’s like going to the bank to take money from your Christmas account and having the bank refuse because they put it in the wrong account.”
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.