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US Chamber Calls for Expanding Nuclear Energy

Jan. 15, 2014—America should expand the use of nuclear energy and “commit to a nuclear waste solution,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in an update of its energy plan.

“[T]he government has created barriers for new [nuclear] construction and jeopardized existing plants,” a website outlining the 64-item plan says.

Issues include what the website calls the “tremendous front-loaded costs of financing construction of new reactors, low natural gas prices that have impacted construction and operations decisions of utilities, and a lack of clear policy for nuclear waste.”

The plan recommends that nuclear energy “be treated the same as other low-emission energy sources in new energy legislation” on renewable portfolios or clean energy standards and that policymakers prevent market distortions—such as federal and state subsidies and mandates for some renewable electricity sources over others—that are not only causing early retirements of nuclear reactors in competitive markets, but are discouraging new reactor construction.

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and various Regional Transmission Organizations need to examine the impacts of states’ [renewable portfolio standards] and tax credits on the reliability of the electrical grid and dispatch of nuclear power,” the plan recommends.

On nuclear waste management, the plan says, “Despite a legal obligation, a political impasse has prevented the federal government from establishing a permanent nuclear waste storage facility.” It says implementing a policy to manage the country’s nuclear waste is “crucial to ensuring the viability of this integral energy source for generations to come.”

The policy statement recommends that the administration and Congress continue to fund public-private programs to demonstrate and license advanced nuclear technologies including small reactor designs.

It also encourages the administration to “take advantage of America’s commercial nuclear industry” and aggressively pursue civilian nuclear cooperation agreements with other nations.

The new set of recommendations updates the chamber’s 2008 energy plan.