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Nuclear Energy Institute
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 16, 2009
Contact: media@nei.org, 202.739.8000 or 703.644.8805 (after hours and weekends)

US Senate Panel Recognizes Nuclear Energy's Strategic Value to Energy Climate Change Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today passed an amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that recognizes the strategic importance of nuclear energy to America’s supply of carbon-free electricity.

The amendment, passed with bipartisan support, calls for the expansion of nuclear energy facilities that have proven essential in providing clean and secure domestic energy for the United States and in reducing greenhouse gases. Nuclear energy prevents 692 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year and produces nearly three-quarters of all carbon-free electricity in America.

“Nuclear energy is a strategic technology and should be recognized for providing clean and secure domestic energy … and reducing greenhouse gases,” the Senate amendment states. “The use and expansion of nuclear energy is essential for the production of electricity and other industrial applications and the reduction of greenhouse gases.”

The amendment also calls for the federal government to fulfill its obligation to manage used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste. It recommends:

  • storing used fuel rods at a limited number of secure, centralized storage facilities; and
  • encouraging state and local support for centralized storage facilities.

The amendment directs the Department of Energy to expedite the development of a long-term used nuclear fuel management program that may include used fuel reprocessing and recycling, and advanced reactors to reduce the volume and radioactivity of high-level radioactive waste using an “integrated, proliferation-resistant” recycling process that is safe and minimizes the amount of material that needs permanent geologic storage.

To move used fuel recycling forward, the amendment calls on the Secretary of Energy to develop an integrated process for all steps involved in an advanced fuel recycling process. The process would include conducting design and engineering work that leads to the development of firm cost estimates, and directing the Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee and the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board to prepare detailed reports on the development and readiness of the recycling program.

“The nuclear energy industry greatly appreciates the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s recognition of the significant role that nuclear energy plays as the nation’s single largest source of low-carbon electricity,” said Marvin Fertel, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s president and chief executive officer. “The committee clearly recognizes the critical importance of nuclear energy as part of the bridge to a low-carbon energy future that provides reliable, affordable and clean electricity to consumers and businesses and hundreds of thousands of green jobs to help jump-start the economy.

“Achieving a significant expansion of nuclear energy in the United States requires sustained federal and state government policies that pave the way for advanced design nuclear plant construction, research and development on new reactor and used fuel recycling technologies and development of the next-generation work force. Among the policies important in this regard is the interim used fuel storage strategy that the committee endorsed,” Fertel said.