WASHINGTON, D.C.—Increased use of nuclear energy to meet rising electricity demand with a clean-air energy source will provide a major boost to the American economy, an industry infrastructure expert told the U.S. Senate Finance Committee today.
“Congress has set a high bar in climate change legislative proposals and must have a significant contribution from nuclear energy—the largest source of carbon-free electricity—to achieve its goals. New nuclear power plants also will serve other national imperatives, as construction of new plants will create tens of thousands of jobs in project development, construction, operations and manufacturing,” said Carol Berrigan, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior director of industry infrastructure.
Berrigan pointed out that nuclear energy provides 72 percent of the U.S. electricity supply that comes from sources that do not emit greenhouse gases or other controlled air pollutants. The 104 reactors operating in 31 states also generate substantial economic value. In 2008, companies in the nuclear energy industry procured more than $14 billion in materials, fuel and services from more than 22,500 domestic suppliers in all 50 states.
The prospect of new nuclear plants already is acting as an economic catalyst, Berrigan said. The industry has invested more than $4 billion in nuclear plant development over the past few years and is expected to invest approximately $8 billion more to be prepared to start construction of new plants in 2011-2012. This investment will translate into major opportunities in the labor and supply chain markets.
“The resurgence of nuclear energy will lead to increasing demand for skilled labor at all levels—especially in the skilled crafts, including welders, pipefitters, electricians, sheet metal workers and carpenters,” Berrigan said. “The nuclear supply chain also represents a major opportunity for American manufacturers to expand capacity to meet the needs of the growing world nuclear power market.”
Over the past two years, more than 15,000 new jobs have been created due to new nuclear plant activities and the number of U.S. suppliers of nuclear energy equipment certified by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers has jumped 22 percent since 2007.
License applications for 22 new reactors are under active review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A recent Environmental Protection Agency analysis shows that to meet the carbon-reduction goals of the House of Representatives’ American Clean Energy and Security Act, 187 new nuclear plants must be built by 2050. An Energy Information Administration analysis shows the need for 69 new reactors by 2030.
Achieving these goals and expanding nuclear energy to meet the nation’s climate and energy challenges cannot be shouldered alone by the nuclear industry, Berrigan cautioned.
“A program to expand reliance on nuclear energy to meet U.S. climate change goals, even if it only approaches the scale indicated by EPA and EIA analyses, will require a sustained partnership between federal and state governments and the private sector, including additional policy support from the federal government,” she said.
Financing is the single largest challenge to the accelerated construction of new nuclear and other clean energy facilities. Successful expansion of nuclear energy on the scale identified by these independent analyses requires these and other policy initiatives, Berrigan said:
Congress should create a permanent financing platform—with at least $100 billion in loan authority—to provide loans, loan guarantees and other credit support to develop clean energy projects, including new nuclear energy facilities, and new nuclear equipment manufacturing facilities.
Federal tax stimulus would accelerate capital investment in new nuclear energy technology and in the critical workforce and infrastructure necessary to build new energy facilities in the numbers required to reduce carbon emissions.
Congress should reduce and eventually eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade in nuclear plant components while providing expanded investment stimulus to develop U.S. manufacturing capability for nuclear goods and components where such capability does not exist.
“No single technology by itself can slow and reverse increases in carbon emissions, but the role of nuclear energy in achieving the nation’s climate goals is clearly established,” Berrigan said. “With the proper investment environment, the expansion of nuclear energy in the U.S. and globally provides a significant opportunity for American workers and industry, increasing high-wage employment and significantly expanding our domestic manufacturing sector.”
Berrigan’s testimony may be found on the NEI public Web site at http://www.nei.org/newsandevents/speechesandtestimony/november-10-2009-carol-berrigan