Can We Talk?
US Nuclear Energy Foundation
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We must also expand access to safe and emissions free nuclear power in a way that responsibly manages waste and dramatically reduces proliferation . . . this can and in my judgement should be done because this is the critical point, “at present nuclear power is the only mature technology that can supply large amounts of emissions free base load power to help us meet the expected growth”. Yes there are other technologies available or under development from wind power to bio management, clean coal through carbon sequestration and there are different energy efficiency technologies as well but, all these have a big impact on our energy security, we are talking however about what is available to order right now that would have a material impact on our ability to produce home grown clean power we simply have to talk nuclear power. We have not licensed a new nuclear power plant in this country in over 30 years that simply must change. Now I realize that I am preaching a bit to the choir here but the point needs to be made . . . we must get the overall process going again. Doing so requires us all to work together to remove the major impediments to getting new nuclear plants ordered, sited, and eventually built and operating. There is a bit of a danger here of putting the cart before the horse so what I’d like to do today is throw out into your discussions a bit and focus, in my view, what the federal government should do and in fact I believe we are doing it to remove the roadblocks and catalyze this process.
The way I see it, the role of the federal government is to help break the inertia, if you will, working closely with industry and the academic community, we must take steps to remove the constraints associated with getting the next generation nuclear plants online, from there the market will take over. And let’s face it, the constraints are considerable, there are immense sighting and regulatory concerns from the local level on up. There is a need for more funding of nuclear science and research and development from the government as well as the private sector and related to that, of course, is the human component which you are focusing on here. We also must address two very real security concerns #1 the storage of spent fuel and #2 the risks of proliferation of nuclear technology and materials. Both of these are linked directly to a large issue, the state of our current nuclear capabilities. In many ways the nuclear capability of the United States has abdicated in the thirty years since the last nuclear plant was ordered. We no longer have the capacity to forge the heavy ingots needed to fabricate major nuclear reactor components. Whereas this nation was once the unquestioned leader in enrichment technology . . . (we in fact invented it) we currently meet only a portion of our domestic demand and even that is with outdated technology and we depend on foreign sources for more than 80% of our enriched uranium requirements and have no domestic commercial fuel recycling facilities for operating fast reactors or gas cooled reactors and no operating high level nuclear waste repository. . . .
Now I don’t mean to paint to negative a picture here, after all we still have more operating nuclear reactors than any other nation we have 104 plants operating in 31 states, I should mention up until recently that number was 103 plants, as many of you know after 22 years offline and a massive renovation the Brown’s Ferry Unit-1 nuclear plant in North Alabama was officially restarted in late May and was reconnected to the TVA power grid on June 2nd. I had the fun of visiting that site with the President just last week. The progress at Brown’s Ferry thought long in coming is certainly a step in the right direction but we need to take more steps, actually in leaps and bounds. Thankfully I believe that we will get there. I am proud to serve in an administration with a vision of a future world that can universally enjoy the benefits safe affordable emissions free energy and we have programs and plans in place to achieve that vision and to put the US back in the nuclear energy game again. . . .
Our focus is not on alleviating the constraints facing nuclear power expansion in the country. First we are implementing important provisions of the energy policy act of 2005 or EPAC . . . this will allow us to address some very significant road blocks in getting nuclear power rejunivated specifically . . . to take steps to share some of the risks associated with constructing new advanced nuclear facilities through federal group insurance and loan guarantees. After extensive industry and public input in August of 2006 the department announced a final rule that established the process for a utility to qualify for a portion of the 2 billion dollars in risk insurance for the first six plants that are built. Among other things the insurance would cover events beyond the control of the owner such as delays associated with NRC reviews or other licensing schedule delays as well as delays certain delays associated with litigation. The new loan guarantee program that I mention provides the backing of the US government by having the department share some of the financial risk associated with new clean energy projects that avoid, reduce or sequester air pollutants and greenhouse gases and that includes new nuclear plants . . . just last month we issued a notice of proposed pool making in line with our authority to guarantee up to 4 billion dollars in loans this year. We had requested authority to guarantee up to nine billion dollars for physical year 2008. We are using these guarantees to catalyze new projects and share the risks with the project sector by essentially lowering the costs of capital for these projects. If we are to reduce the barriers to the deployment of new nuclear plants then we must demonstrate to the industry that it is indeed to navigate the regulatory process.
Through the nuclear power 2010 program we are engaging in a cost shared effort to do just that. As many of you know nuclear power 2010 is attempting to pave the way through the early site permit process as well as the combined operating license (COL) process for generation three plus light water reactors. In other words to demonstrate the untested federal regulatory and licensing processes for the sighting, construction and operation of these plants and to do it in conjunction with industry we need to work the kinks out of the system in so doing we will allow those utilities that follow through the process do reference this work and to negotiate the process in a substantially shorter period of time. We are well on our way to meeting program goals and completing this process. Another program that I would highlight is the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) . . . an international effort to address our growing global energy demands in a way that fosters economic development, improves our environment and responsibly manages nuclear waste and significantly reduces the threat of proliferation and terrorism. GNEP will expand the use of nuclear power in the United States and globally by developing more proliferation resistant technologies to recycle spent nuclear fuel . . . last month my counterparts from China, France, Japan and Russia all announced their commitment to this ground breaking partnership. Working with our international partners we will develop cutting edge technologies and develop new mechanisms for the distribution of fuel. On the technology side we will demonstrate an advanced recycle technology that does not separate pure plutonium like current reprocessing technology that is carried out in various parts of the world, most particularly France. By separating spent fuel into different elements . . . we can recycle most of the long life elements as fuel back into reactors to produce additional electricity and optimize disposal of the remaining waste products. Some of the most highly radioactive products . . . have half lives that are only about 30 years and do not require long term fuel object disposal so by recycling most of the very long life elements and setting aside for decay storage the most radioactive and heat producing elements we will greatly reduce the burden on a geologic repository. With recycling, required depository space can be reduced by 90% and radio toxicity reduced by 99%.
Through GNEP there are tremendous opportunities for university partnerships and participation in fact, the project’s success will depend on the academic community here and all over the world. In general we believe that a foundation exists in the academic community to expand our collaboration with the energy department . . . the office of nuclear energy support now extends to approximately 50 universities with about 30 of these offering nuclear engineering degrees and the amount of money we have committed to them is over 50 million dollars in each of the last two years. . . . We must continue to encourage congress to support the GNEP initiative. We must continue making the case for more nuclear power in this country and we need all segments of the nuclear science establishment, labor and industry to follow. It is a robust and growing commercial industry that will lead to more jobs and more university research. The future needs for our highly trained nuclear engineers and other personnel . . . will not be there unless the market demands it. The market will not do so without a supportive policy environment . . . once we have the right politics in place and much needed support from congress we will have paved the way for new plants to be ordered, built and brought online.
Our US Nuclear Energy presence at the 2007 Summer ANS meeting in Boston kept us very busy with photos, studying the presentation topics and trying to assemble our media coverage. Here is more of what we learned.
Click on thumbs to enlarge thumbs! . . . Our photos and comments from the 2007 ANS summer meeting in Boston, MA.
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