Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 10:00 AM

Senator Pete V. Domenici

The purpose of this hearing is to evaluate the progress of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Power 2010 (NP2010) program and get a better overall sense of the Administration’s commitment to nuclear power and the revival of nuclear power in the United States.

I also want to discuss the NP2010 program in the context of what I hope is an integrated Administration strategy for a renaissance of nuclear power in our country.

Currently, 103 nuclear power plants are operating in the United States. These reactors provide 20% of the electric power needs for our nation – that’s 20% of our total generation that’s free of greenhouse gas emission free and an important diversity in our national energy supply.

Nuclear plants:

  • Provide the nation’s lowest cost electricity other than hydropower,
  • Emit no greenhouse gases,
  • Excel at providing steady baseload power, essential to anchoring grid stability,
  • Have demonstrated outstanding reliability, and
  • Have a superb safety record.

However, the last completed nuclear plant in the United States was ordered in 1973, 32 years ago. A combination of issues has contributed to preceived financial risks that have precluded new plant orders. Those issues include:

  • High up-front capital costs.
  • An unproven regulatory framework for new plants.
  • Lack of progress on spent fuel management.
  • A deregulated and highly competitive electricity market.

In contrast, nuclear plants are both being operated and built today elsewhere around the world. For example, 4 of these plants are under construction in Japan; 2 in China; 2 in Taiwan; 2 in Korea; 1 in Finland; and France is close to final legislative action to approve a new plant.

In 1997, I said we needed a renaissance of nuclear power in America and today we are on the verge of it.

More voices have joined with me in calling for expansion of nuclear energy. I was pleased that last year a preeminent international spokesman for environmental causes, James Lovelock, stated:

We have no time to experiment with visionary energy

sources; civilization is in imminent danger and has to

use nuclear – the one safe, available, energy source

now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our

outraged planet. . . .

Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational

fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies

and the media. These fears are unjustified and

nuclear energy ... has proved to be the safest of all

energy sources

I’m enthusiastic right now because at the NRC there are three pending Early Site Permits (ESPs) for three utilities under review – and I hear that more may be on the horizon. This is a key step on the road to new plants in the U.S.

Additionally, there are three consortia, NuStart, Dominion and TVA, that have been awarded monies in a cost share arrangement by the NP2010 program to put together a Combined Construction and Operating License (COL) for submittal to the NRC. This opens the door for new plant construction further than any point in the last three decades -- this is critical for our nation. It is a process that I will continue to watch with very strong interest.

Testifying before the committee today are:

The Honorable Clay Sell, Deputy Secretary of Energy;

Thank you for coming and testifying for the first time as Deputy Secretary of the Department.

My good friend, the Honorable Nils Diaz, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,

Mr. Michael Wallace, to whom I have spoken numerous times about the rebirth of nuclear power, he is the Executive Vice President of Constellation Energy and President of Constellation’s Generation Group,

Before we begin hearing the witnesses, I want to note that The Honorable James Asselstine, Managing Director at Lehman Brothers, Inc. was scheduled to be here, but his mother passed away on Sunday and he is with his family today. On behalf of the committee, I extend our condolences to Mr. Asselstine and his family. We are Very sorry for their loss. Mr. Asselstine contacted the committee and offered to submit his statement for the record and welcomed any questions Senators may have for the record.

If no other Senator wish to make statements, we’ll begin.