Tennessee's Sen. Lamar Alexander gains energy ally

Virginia senator wants to double nuclear capacity

Posted on November 17, 2009

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander has found a Democratic partner in his campaign to grow the country's nuclear power capacity. His new ally is Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, a former Navy secretary familiar with nuclear generation because of its use in powering Navy ships. On Monday, he and Alexander introduced a $20 billion plan to double the country's nuclear generating capacity in 20 years. The legislation would provide: • $100 billion in federal loan guarantees to produce carbon-free electricity from nuclear power plants and other sources. • $1 billion to the Nu-clear Regulatory Commission to review new nuclear plant designs. • $1 billion for workforce development to make sure there are enough nuclear engineers, operators and other workers for the additional plants. • $7.5 billion for clean-energy research to develop clean-coal technology, im-prove batteries for cars, develop solar power, find ways to recycle used nuclear fuel and create new biofuels. • $500 million to make the country's 104 existing nuclear power plants more efficient and longer lasting, something proponents say could equal the production of 20-30 new reactors. The legislative proposal mirrors a plan that Alexander has pushed in recent months as an alternative to the climate change legislation in Congress. The House and Senate bills would establish a cap on carbon emissions, which would gradually be reduced. Companies that polluted less than they're allowed to would sell allowances to firms that couldn't meet their emission limits. Neither Alexander nor Webb support the "cap and trade" system in the Senate bill. Webb said it's too complex. Both said nuclear power would provide a more straightforward way to increase production of carbon-free electricity. "The rest of the world is taking our invention and is way ahead of us," Alexander said.