President George W. Bush said the nation “must start building nuclear power plants” in a videotaped address to the nation’s nuclear energy industry leaders here today.
“There is a growing consensus that nuclear power is a key part of a clean, secure energy future,” Bush told 435 industry executives convened at the Nuclear Energy Institute’s (NEI) annual conference. “To maintain our economic leadership and strengthen our energy security, America must start building nuclear power plants.”
The United States is entering “a time of great progress,” Bush said. He voiced optimism that greater use of nuclear energy will help the nation during this era.
“Our economy is creating new jobs. It is also creating new demands for energy … By expanding our use of nuclear power, we can make our energy supply more reliable, our environment cleaner and our nation more secure for future generations.”
Bush last June became the first sitting U.S. president to visit a nuclear plant in 26 years when he delivered an energy policy speech at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear station in Maryland.
During his five-minute address, he identified several steps that his administration has taken to encourage greater use of nuclear energy. These include:
Launching the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Power 2010 initiative – an industry-government, cost-sharing program to test the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s new licensing process for new nuclear plants.
Proposing federal legislation, now under consideration by Congress, to advance DOE’s nuclear waste management program, including provisions “to move forward with licensing, construction and operation” of the planned geologic repository for used nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, Nev.
Signing into law the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a measure that includes technology-neutral loan guarantees for clean-air energy sources, production tax credits for a limited number of new nuclear plants, and limited “standby support” insurance to counter the business risk of delays in new plant construction that are beyond the control of electric utilities.
Over the past year, 10 companies have announced plans to file license applications with the NRC for as many as 20 new nuclear power plants.
“I’m optimistic about the future of nuclear energy,” Bush said. “Your industry has come a long way in recent decades, and I’m confident that even greater progress lies ahead.”
The president’s call for new nuclear plants is a challenge that the industry is well-positioned to meet, said NEI’s Chairman Anthony F. Earley Jr., chairman and CEO of DTE Energy.
Earley noted that nuclear energy’s attributes of producing large amounts of clean, affordable and reliable electricity on a continual basis make it unique.
“Other sources of electricity have one or two of these attributes, but only nuclear plants have all three. That is what makes nuclear energy a unique value proposition, and that is why so many people, of so many different persuasions, can find a place in our tent,” Earley said.
Earley identified the business and political conditions that bode well for new nuclear plants, including:
Industry-average production costs of 1.7 cents per kilowatt-hour remain the lowest among all forms of energy except for hydroelectric facilities and represent a 33 percent decline over the past 10 years.
Capacity factors—a measure of efficiency—averaged about 90 percent for the fifth year in a row.
The industry produced 782 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2005, the second-highest ever.
The industry also is enjoying broad public support as evidenced by recent polls showing 75 percent approval for new nuclear plants in general and nearly 80 percent approval from people living within a 10 mile radius of current plants. Support also is coming from public officials.
“Who would have guessed that states and local communities would be competing among themselves, offering companies incentives to build new nuclear capacity?” Earley said.
Earley cautioned that the industry’s hard-earned trust cannot be taken for granted and the industry “must anticipate potential challenges to our systems and components” and have a plan to deal with them.
The theme was echoed by NEI President and CEO Frank L. “Skip” Bowman.
Bowman told the assembly’s record-high number of attendees that the nuclear provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 afforded the industry a framework to undertake the substantial capital investments necessary to construct new nuclear power plants, but the implementation of these provisions is a road not-yet-traveled.
“These are complex programs and initiatives…and the heavy lifting is still ahead of us,” he said. “We have several more months of analysis and negotiation ahead of us on implementation of last year’s energy legislation, but I believe we will succeed in obtaining workable implementing regulations,” he said.
Bowman also pointed out that the industry must diligently work with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to streamline regulatory processes in anticipation of the submittal of numerous license applications for new plants over the next few years.
“This is a substantial burden on NRC and industry resources and places a high premium on efficiency on both sides,” Bowman said. “Success may require innovative approaches on both sides and new ways of doing business.”
Bowman expressed confidence that, even with challenges ahead, the industry can successfully help meet society’s future energy needs by educating people who remain skeptical but open minded about nuclear power.
“Our industry raises many complex issues, but we can help lift the veil and build understanding by simply telling the truth,” he said. “We have the facts, and the facts are on our side.”
John Engler, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, told attendees during a 20-minute speech that NAM’s 12,000 member companies strongly support nuclear energy as part of a diverse energy mix.
“We strongly support at the National Association of Manufacturers diversifying and expanding power generation in the United States. We believe nuclear energy will be a key component of the future energy landscape,” Engler said. “If we don’t act to address our nation’s energy needs in the short- and the medium- and the long-term, the economic consequences will be devastating.”
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.