Hearings and Business Meetings
March 9, 2006
SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 10:00 AM
Asst. Secretary Dennis Spurgeon
Department of Energy
Statement of Dennis Spurgeon,
Nominee to be Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, United States Senate, March 9, 2006
Mr. Chairman, Senator Bingaman and members of the committee, I am honored to appear before you today as the President’s nominee to be Assistant Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Energy. I would like to introduce and recognize my wife of 40 years, Carrol Spurgeon. When we began our lives together under an arch of swords at the Naval Academy chapel we could never have comprehended what an amazing odessy we were about to begin together. Carrol has been my biggest supporter, and I have tried to be hers. After raising our three children Carrol went back to school, was awarded a degree in design, became a licensed designer and spent 16 years as a contract employee for the CIA. She has had some very interesting experiences.
Also with me today are my sons Dennis and Scott and my daughters-in-law Cherine and Monica. My daughter Kimberly lives in London and could not be here today, but I always have her support.
Over the past four decades I have had the opportunity to work in almost every aspect of the nuclear power business, including uranium exploration, uranium mining and milling, uranium enrichment, fuel fabrication, reactor operations, fuel reprocessing and waste solidification. My first assignment associated with the civilian nuclear industry was in 1969 at the Atomic Energy Commission. Those were exciting times in the nuclear energy field. There was a great deal of optimism concerning the major role that nuclear energy would play in our nation’s energy future. However, the oil embargo of 1973 caused energy prices to spike upward, people used less electricity in response to the higher prices, which in turn caused utilities to delay or cancel new generating stations, many of which were nuclear. Unfortunately, this was followed by double digit interest rates in the late 1970’s that disproportionately affected nuclear plants because nuclear plants have high capital costs (offset by low fuel cycle costs). With the 1979 Three Mile Island reactor accident, the prospects for nuclear energy in the United States hit a low
point. It has now been three decades since we have seen a new nuclear reactor ordered in this country.
However, the tide is turning, the clouds have parted and we are at the dawn of a nuclear renaissance in America. A plentiful, reliable supply of energy is the cornerstone of sustained economic growth and prosperity. More and more Americans, including many in the environmental community, are recognizing that nuclear power is the only proven technology that can provide abundant supplies of base load electricity reliably and without air pollution or emissions of greenhouse gasses. We now have a new generation of light water reactors that are even safer and simpler to construct than the very safe and economical reactors in use today.
President Bush has proposed a visionary initiative in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. This plan, which includes demonstrating the technology necessary to recycle spent fuel in a proliferation-resistant manner, has the potential to solidify nuclear energy’s current resurgence for decades to come and ensure it is done in a safe and secure manner.
Mr. Chairman, simply put America needs more nuclear energy and, if confirmed, I will do everything in my power to assist in bringing about the increased use of safe nuclear energy in the United States and elsewhere for the benefit of mankind and the environment in which we live. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 has provided us with some excellent tools with which to do our jobs. Many of our farsighted utility executives are preparing for new nuclear orders and our reactor suppliers are preparing some outstanding product offerings. These are once again very exciting times to be in the nuclear energy field. I am honored that President Bush nominated me for this position at such a historic time, and I am thankful to have the trust of Secretary Bodman as well. If confirmed I will have an opportunity to contribute to a much better energy future for our children and generations to come. I can think of no greater legacy to leave.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions.