NAPLES, FL—The nuclear energy industry is taking steps to set the stage for new nuclear power plant construction needed to meet the rising demand for electricity and cleaner air, one of the industry's top executives said here today.
Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Chairman Christian H. Poindexter said that, in addition to maintaining record levels of electricity production and efficiency, the industry is enhancing the strong security at power plants, preparing early site permit applications for new reactors with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and supporting the Bush Administration's recommendation that Yucca Mountain, Nev., be approved for development of a specially designed repository for used nuclear fuel.
"The industry is implementing near-term actions to support long-term strategies to ensure a bright future for nuclear energy," said Poindexter, chairman of the board of Baltimore-based Constellation Energy Group.
"The United States will need new nuclear power plants in the future to meet increased electricity demand while protecting our nation's air quality," Poindexter told more than 300 attendees at the industry's annual conference, the Nuclear Energy Assembly. He cited a U.S. Energy Information Administration projection that electricity demand will rise nearly 400,000 megawatts over the next two decades.
"Clearly the United States must continue to rely on nuclear energy for a large portion of its electricity to promote our energy security and protect our nation's air quality," he said.
Nuclear energy provides electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses. It is by far the largest electricity source that does not pollute the air, constituting two-thirds of emission-free generation in the United States.
The 103 reactors operating in 31 states last year set an electricity production record for the third straight year at 768 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh).
"The administration and many in Congress recognize that nuclear energy is a vital part of our nation's diverse and environmentally responsible energy portfolio," Poindexter said.
The recent Senate-approved national energy bill includes provisions supporting the administration's "Nuclear Energy 2010" initiative to achieve new nuclear power plant construction by the end of the decade, he noted.
"We soon expect to see the first application for an early site permit for a nuclear power plant. Once granted, an early site permit will enable the company that holds it to consider building a nuclear plant when it needs new generating capacity."
Poindexter urged conference attendees to "remain vigilant" in support of the proposed Yucca Mountain project. Joint resolutions approving Yucca Mountain are pending in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
"Leaving used nuclear material - including material from the aircraft carriers and submarines that help protect our freedom - at storage facilities in 39 states is not a long-term solution. Leaving the federal government holding a huge financial liability for failure to meet its obligation to manage used nuclear fuel is not a long-term solution. The only action that supports a long-term solution, based on science, not politics - is a vote to proceed with construction of the repository," he said.
Commenting on post-September 11 attention on the security at civilian nuclear facilities, Poindexter said, "The irony is that the nuclear industry probably has spent more time and resources on security and emergency preparedness than any other industry. Nuclear power plants are the best-protected element of our nation's critical infrastructure-protected by a combination of their robust design, sophisticated security equipment, and superbly trained, well-equipped security forces. Since September 11, the nuclear industry has heightened security even more."
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.