The nuclear industry has safely and securely managed used fuel on its plant sites for more than 50 years and can continue to do so well into the future under the scrutiny of the NRC. However, the decision by the Administration to discontinue the Yucca Mountain repository project will require the Administration and the Congress to define the new long-term disposal program and to make appropriate changes to the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. As part of the new program direction, the industry would like to see limited financial incentives for the development of voluntary interim storage facilities for used uranium fuels and further research and development into advanced reprocessing and recycling technologies.
The potential construction of new nuclear plants has already begun to pay economic dividends. Over the past several years, the nuclear industry has invested more than $4 billion in new nuclear plant development and has created more than 15,000 jobs. The industry plans to invest approximately $8 billion more to be in a position to start construction in 2011-2012.
Regulatory efficiencies inherent in the NRC new plant licensing process also need to be implemented for the second wave of standardized plants. These efficiencies, coupled with efficiencies in constructing the plants, will benefit consumers by reducing the time-to-market for a new plant from a decade to around six years, with commensurate cost reductions in the price of electricity. The efficiencies will in no way compromise safety nor diminish the effectiveness of public participation.
These programs will allow the world to take advantage of the residual energy in each fuel rod to be used again and again to provide the 70 percent of carbon-free electricity in the United States.
Addressing climate change while producing the quantity of electricity needed to sustain economic growth and maintain a high quality of life necessitates a significant contribution from nuclear energy as part of our diversified portfolio. Inclusion of a meaningful nuclear energy title by itself doesn’t get you to an agreement in Congress on climate change legislation. But at the same time, you can’t get there without it.