Alexander: Future of Nuclear Power Important to Memphis, TVA’s Largest Customer

Tells American Association of Blacks in Energy the United States cannot afford to abandon nuclear power

Posted on October 24, 2016

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Oct. 24, 2016 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today told members of the Tennessee Chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) that “nuclear power is the nation’s best source of low-cost, reliable, safe and pollution-free electricity.”

“The United States uses nearly 20 percent of all electricity in the world to power our industries, our computers, our homes and most everything else we depend upon. Our 100 nuclear reactors provide about 20 percent of that electricity – which doesn’t turn on or off when the wind blows or the sun shines and is available 90 percent of the time. It is cheap, reliable and safe. At a time when the science academies of 20 developed countries and many Americans say climate change is a threat – and that humans are a significant cause of that threat – nuclear power provides about 60 percent of our country’s carbon-free electricity. It is our nation’s best source of low-cost, reliable, safe and pollution-free electricity, and it must be part of our energy future. In fact, I don’t want to see a day in our country’s future without nuclear power."

Speaking at the Tennessee AABE conference in Memphis, Alexander, who leads the Senate appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development, listed five specific steps he said Congress should take to avoid negative impacts of plant closures and to continue to lower U.S. emissions.

On building more U.S. nuclear reactors: “First, we need to build more reactors. Just last week, Watts Bar 2 became the first new commercially operating reactor in 20 years. I said one time we should build 100 new reactors in the United States. The Energy Information Agency has said that almost 20 percent of our current capacity from coal is scheduled to go offline by 2020. If that were to be replaced only by nuclear power, it would require building another 48 new 1,250-megawatt reactors – which would reduce our carbon emissions another 14 percent.”

On solving the nuclear waste stalemate: “Second, we must solve the nuclear waste stalemate over what to do with our country’s waste. Yucca Mountain can and should be part of the solution, but we have more than enough waste to fill Yucca Mountain to its legal capacity. To end this stalemate we need to move forward on all tracks, which is why I have proposed a pilot program that would create consolidated storage sites to store used nuclear fuel."

On relieving burdensome regulations when building nuclear reactors: “Third, we need to relieve the burdens of extensive regulation. We absolutely want it to be safe to operate nuclear reactors, but we don’t want to make it so expensive and difficult to build reactors that we don’t build them at all.”

On ending subsidies that pick winners and losers and make nuclear more expensive: “Four, we must stop picking winners and losers – and the most conspicuous example is the wasteful wind production tax credit. Last year’s extension, for 2015, will cost taxpayers about $6 billion over the next 10 years which is enough to double basic energy research at the Dept. of Energy. The federal subsidy to Big Wind is so generous in some markets that wind producers can literally give their electricity away and still make a profit.”

On doubling basic energy research: “Finally, we must double our investment in basic energy research, which can help the Nuclear Regulatory Commission determine what nuclear reactor licenses can safely be extended from 60 to 80 years. Basic energy research is one of the most important things the country can do to help unleash our free enterprise system to provide the clean, cheap, reliable energy we need to power our 21st-century economy, create good jobs, and keep America competitive in a global economy."

In September, Alexander held the first of two oversight hearings on the future of nuclear power. The second hearing is scheduled for later this year.

Alexander also told AABE members about the bipartisan energy bill he voted for, and the Senate passed earlier this year. He said the bill “reauthorizes energy programs in the America COMPETES Act, authorizes funding levels for the Dept. of Energy Office of Science that puts us on a path to double basic energy research and authorizes the Dept. of Energy to continue to build the world’s fastest supercomputers, and develop the next generation of ‘exascale’ computers, which is essential to national security and competitiveness and will create high-wage jobs.”

The House passed its version of the energy bill in May, and the legislation is now being considered by the conference committee. Alexander said he hopes the legislation will be enacted by the end of the year.

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