Nuclear energy has a vital role to play in national policies that are needed to reduce carbon emissions, meet growing electricity demand and improve national energy security, a select policy panel was told here today. In developing strategies and polices to address climate change and national energy security, any credible path must include nuclear energy, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s president and chief executive officer, Adm. Frank L. (Skip) Bowman (USN, Retired), said during a meeting hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and attended by some of the nation’s top policy analysts.
“I am convinced, first, that nuclear energy is essential to our nation’s energy security and, second, that energy security is a keystone of our national security,” Bowman said.
“As you all know, national security involves more than protection against external military threats. Positive national security includes public confidence in our nation’s economic prospects, confidence that we can sustain economic growth and confidence that we can create jobs and promise our people a higher standard of living,” Bowman said.
“National security does not include exporting over half-a-trillion dollars a year for the oil that drives a good part of our economy. And it does not include allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to people who do not accept our democratic principles,” he added.
According to industry estimates, the electric sector faces staggering investment requirements – at least $1.5 trillion by 2025 on new electric generating capacity, transmission and distribution, and environmental controls.
Bowman pointed to a common challenge in developing any new energy infrastructure – financing.
“We all know that a portfolio of technologies and energy sources is essential to address U.S. environmental imperatives and to provide adequate supply of electricity. Although each technology has its own challenges, the largest single challenge across all technologies is financing,” he said.
“Sufficient financing is an essential requirement to conduct research, development and demonstration of the technologies in the portfolio, and to enable large-scale deployment of the new technologies when they have been developed and demonstrated. We must create new financing platforms.”
Bowman supported the clean-energy loan guarantee program authorized by the 2005 Energy Policy Act, but suggested that a more expansive effort is necessary.
“The existing loan guarantee program – with an artificially-capped $38.5 billion in loan guarantee authority – does not represent a sufficient response to the $1.5 trillion investment necessary to rebuild America’s critical electric power infrastructure. We use loan guarantee programs to support shipbuilding, steelmaking, student loans, affordable housing, construction of critical transportation infrastructure, and for many other purposes.
“America’s electric infrastructure is no less important,” Bowman said. “It’s true that the U.S. electric industry represents only three to four percent of U.S. gross domestic product. But the other 96 to 97 percent of our $14-trillion-a-year economy depends on that three or four percent.”
Bowman endorsed the concept of a Clean Energy Bank, a government corporation modeled on the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, to ensure that capital flows to critical electric sector infrastructure development. This concept also has been recommended by the Council on Competitiveness and the Institute for 21st Century Energy.
One hundred four nuclear power plants operating in 31 states provide 19 percent of the nation’s electricity; they supply nearly 75 percent of the electricity that comes from carbon-free electricity sources. Over the past year, 16 applications for 25 possible new reactors that would be built over the next 15 to 20 years have been filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available at http://www.nei.org.