WASHINGTON—Reminding Congress that a "vital link" exists between nuclear energy and environmental protection, the industry's policy organization criticized the Clinton Administration today for not having a strong plan of action to take advantage of nuclear energy's benefits.
"It is alarming that the administration's plan to reduce (greenhouse gas) emissions to 1990 levels does not acknowledge the current clean air contributions of nuclear energy," said Joe Colvin, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, in testimony before the House Science Energy and Environment Subcommittee. "The absence of any strong domestic policy on nuclear energy makes it difficult—if not impossible—for the United States to engage in a meaningful dialogue with competing nations that use nuclear energy to reduce air pollution."
Colvin called on Congress to shape energy policy in ways that will allow the United States to maintain a diverse energy supply while meeting its domestic and international clean air commitments. He identified three challenges for Congress to meet:
Passage of legislation to reform the federal used nuclear fuel storage and disposal program.
Support for continued nuclear energy research and development. "Nuclear energy is one of the federal government's most successful R&D programs story when one considers the return on federal research and development dollars," Colvin said.
Removal of impediments that could place nuclear plants at a disadvantagein a competitive electricity marketplace.
"Congress should ensure the creation of an efficient hearing process for reviewing license renewal applications and license transfer requests. Utilities also should have an opportunity for full recovery of unfunded nuclear plant decommissioning costs during the transition to an open electricity market," he said.
Colvin told Science Committee members that, since 1973, nuclear energy has done more to prevent harmful atmospheric emissions—carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides—than any other form of electricity generation. Over the past 25 years, 90 percent of all carbon reductions in the electric utility sector are the result of increased reliance on nuclear energy.
While last December's international climate change negotiations in Kyoto, Japan, and new Environmental Protection Agency proposals to limit air pollution have focused attention on nuclear energy's clean air benefits, its value seems lost on the administration. "Ironically, this view is not reflected in the Clinton Administration's domestic energy policy," Colvin said. "The president continues to ignore nuclear energy's contribution as the largest non-emitting source of electricity in the United States today."
Nuclear energy supplies 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs, and is the most successful means of reducing emissions in the electric utility industry.
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.