LOS ANGELES—Nuclear energy is an important part of a diverse electricity supply portfolio that is needed to meet the related challenges of energy security and national security, the chief executive of the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization said today.
Speaking at Town Hall Los Angeles, Nuclear Energy Institute President and CEO Skip Bowman discussed the role reliable, emission-free nuclear energy should play in strengthening America’s energy security and national security.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides significant policy direction to meet future energy challenges, Bowman said. The law provides much-needed investment stimulus for energy efficiency, next-generation nuclear power, renewable energy, and advanced coal technologies.
“I feel strongly that our national security is tied inextricably to our energy security. I also believe that energy policy legislation, signed by the President in August, was an important step forward for America’s energy security. It is the result of many years of hard work by many people, and it is critical to our national security,” Bowman said.
“I do not believe that the United States was, or is, facing an imminent energy crisis,” he said. “We are facing an energy investment crisis. America’s energy infrastructure and, in particular, the electricity infrastructure has been starved for investment for more than a decade.
“The new energy policy legislation is designed to address that issue – to ensure that investment capital flows to where it is needed; to provide investment stimulus for advanced, more efficient, more economic, cleaner electric generation technologies,” Bowman said.
Highlighting the growing U.S. demand for energy, Bowman noted that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) predicts a 45 percent to 50 percent increase in electricity demand by 2025. He voiced concern about the country’s ability to meet this rising electricity demand.
“We’re living off energy investments made by our parents, not making the investments necessary to serve our own needs, and that is a sorry legacy for our children and grandchildren,” Bowman said.
As for construction of new nuclear plants, Bowman said he expects U.S. companies to break ground on new nuclear plants around 2010, with commercial operations beginning as early as 2014. “Once those first plants are built and operating, and as companies and investors gain confidence in the new federal licensing process, we expect construction of significant numbers of new reactors after 2015,” he added.
In addition to supporting greater energy and national security, nuclear power plays a role in protecting the environment. Last year, 103 U.S. reactors prevented the release of 697 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, and 3.4 million tons of sulfur dioxide and 1.1 million tons of nitrogen oxides – two pollutants that contribute most to acid rain and smog.
“Without nuclear power, carbon emissions from the U.S. electric sector would be about 30 percent higher,” Bowman explained. “If we shut down all U.S. nuclear plants for a day and wanted to hold carbon emissions constant, the vast majority of Americans would have to park their cars for that day.”
Bowman also discussed progress that is being made by the federal government in developing a repository for managing used nuclear fuel rods. He said that 20 years and $6 billion of scientific investigation demonstrates that federal land at Yucca Mountain, Nev., is a suitable site for an underground disposal facility that will provide long-term management of used nuclear fuel.
Bowman explained that repository monitoring for up to 300 years and the ability to retrieve the used fuel from the facility will allow DOE to recover the energy content in the fuel if it becomes cost-effective to do so, or if technology were developed that would allow reprocessing in order to reduce the volume of the waste. “Properly explained, this period of monitoring should provide assurance and greater confidence among the citizens of Nevada, and among all our nation’s citizens, that the repository will perform as designed, that public safety will be assured, and that the environment is being protected,” Bowman said.
Concluding his remarks, Bowman said, “Those of us fortunate enough to live in the richest countries in the world have a moral obligation to think more broadly about energy and environmental issues than we often do.”
He added that planning and implementation of energy and environmental policies should be done against the larger backdrop of the world’s energy and environmental needs, mindful of the pressures and imperatives that exist globally.
“Wealthy as we are, we are not insulated from energy and environmental trends elsewhere in the world,” Bowman said. “So it’s not just America that needs more nuclear power plants. The world needs massive deployment of carbon-free technologies like nuclear energy.
Bowman added that there is a direct correlation between a country’s per capita income and its people’s access to electricity and between that access to electricity and infant mortality rate and life expectancy.
Given a large-scale deployment of carbon-free technologies, Bowman said we can live in “a world in which energy development is managed in a sustainable way, a world in which we no longer fight wars with guns and bullets, a world instead in which we use science and technology—including nuclear energy technology—to fight poverty and sickness and environmental insult.”
A copy of Bowman’s speech is available at http://www.nei.org
Town Hall Los Angeles is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to promoting civic participation by offering members direct access to and insight from the most influential business and political leaders.
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.