Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:30 PM

Mr. Dan Keuter

Entergy Nuclear

Testimony of
Dan R. Keuter, Vice President, Nuclear Business Development
Entergy Nuclear
Before the U. S. Senate
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
June 12, 2006

Good afternoon. 
My name is Dan Keuter and I am Vice President of Business Development for Entergy Nuclear, the second largest operator of nuclear energy plants in the United States.
We are very pleased to see you are looking at the Next Generation Nuclear Plant.  The nuclear energy industry supports the integration of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant into a nuclear development strategy.  The next generation of nuclear energy plants holds great promise for our nation, our economy, our environment and, truly, maintaining our American quality of life.

This high temperature gas cooled reactor can be an important part of:

? Reducing air pollution and greenhouse gases
? Preserving our finite resources of oil and natural gas
? Reducing the volume of our used nuclear fuel, and
? Reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources.

The Next Generation Nuclear Plant would be super-safe, virtually meltdown-proof, and a reactor that could be built mostly underground, and therefore be more resistant to terrorist attack.

One of the greatest advantages of these high temperature gas-cooled reactors is that they would be much more efficient than today’s nuclear or coal-fired power plants, converting the reactor’s heat to electricity at an efficiency rate of 48 percent, a 50% improvement over today’s power plants, nuclear or coal.  That means this new reactor could get 50% more power from the same amount of heat and fuel.  This means lower power costs for our customers.

The fact that nuclear energy does not emit the greenhouse gases means they can help us reduce the threat of global climate change.  They also avoid air pollutants that adversely affect the air we breathe, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.
Let me explain how we believe we can get there.

The U.S. nuclear energy industry’s highest priority now is to design, license and construct the advanced, passive light water reactors that are a clear refinement of the designs currently being operated at 103 nuclear sites today.  They will be lower in cost, and even safer to operate.

The nuclear industry agrees with the Administration that the United States needs to show strong leadership in the development and deployment of nuclear energy technology in order to meet our non-proliferation goals, improve our balance of trade, and achieve our energy and environmental goals as a nation.  Without energy security our national security is threatened. 

To this end, we need the Congress to fully fund the Nuclear Power 2010 program and the Yucca Mountain project.  Without the construction and operation of a national fleet of Generation III advanced, passive light water reactors, there won’t be a Generation IV high temperature gas-cooled reactor, despite all its promise.

Nuclear energy technology can play a significant role in helping our nation switch to a hydrogen economy.  In fact the high temperature gas-cooled reactor is needed today to help meet today’s growing needs for hydrogen alone.  There is a strong market for non-polluting hydrogen now.

A fundamental problem is we do not have a low cost source of hydrogen that doesn’t pollute the air.  We produce most of our hydrogen today from breaking down natural gas, putting increased pressure on its volatile prices and ever shorter supply.  But worse, for every ton of hydrogen we produce in today’s steam reformation process, at least 10 tons of carbon dioxide are produced and released to the atmosphere, worsening the risk of climate change.

Hydrogen is a basic raw material in America’s economy today.  Hydrogen is the feedstock for anhydrous ammonia, the fertilizer almost all farmers in the U.S. depend on to increase their crop yields every year – whether they are growing corn, cotton, rice, soybeans or any other crop, amounting to 38 percent of the hydrogen produced today.  Ethanol production from corn would also increase demand for fertilizer and its hydrogen feedstock even more.

Very large amounts of hydrogen are also used today to raise the energy level of imported sour crude oil to make gasoline, truck diesel fuel and aircraft jet fuel.  Gasoline production requires 37 percent of all hydrogen we make today and is growing 10 percent a year, doubling every seven years.  Due to environmental concerns and America’s growing imports of foreign heavy crude oil, hydrogen demand by refineries alone is expected to double by 2010 and quadruple by 2017.

Fertilizer and oil refining represent 75 percent of today’s use of hydrogen and both will grow as environmental concerns increase.  Hydrogen is also a raw material in the production of a variety of chemicals and plastics. 

We understand the Department of Energy and the automobile industry are close to developing the fuel cell to power our large transportation sector of cars and trucks in the future.  But a hydrogen economy only makes sense if the hydrogen is produced from non-emitting sources.  That is not the case today.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005, one of the most far-sighted energy measures ever passed by this Congress, under the strong leadership of this Committee and its far-sighted Chairman, charted a better way.  The Act included $1.25 billion for the design and construction of a commercial prototype of a high temperature gas-cooled reactor.  The Act provided the high temperature gas-cooled reactor should be built at the Idaho National Laboratory no later than 2021. 

Only the government can undertake such long-term, capital intensive research and development efforts.  There is simply too muck financial risk for the private sector.
The governments of other countries of the world are already building or operating such prototype high temperature reactors.  Japan has been operating a demonstration 30-megawatt HTGR plant since 1998.  China was so encouraged by its 10-megawatt high temperature laboratory reactor, which began operating in 2000, that it announced in 2004 that it will build a 200-megawatt demonstration reactor.

The U.S. nuclear industry agrees with the need to close the nuclear fuel cycle by recycling used nuclear fuel.  The government needs to implement the necessary research and development programs that would provide the facts you need in order to make the decisions on how best to recycle.  In our present once-through nuclear fuel cycle, only about four percent of the uranium is actually burned.  About 96 percent of the uranium in our used fuel of today is actually unburned and can be reclaimed. 

America should be doing that.  Other nuclear energy countries – the UK, France, and Japan already are recycling.  High temperature gas cooled reactor technology, like fast reactors, can play an important role in developing recycling as a safe, reliable technology. 
We believe America’s need for hydrogen from non-emitting sources can be integrated with our research and development needs of a recycling program that would close the nuclear fuel cycle in a safe, reliable and low cost manner that would be acceptable to the American people. 

In summary, our priorities are (1) the licensing and construction of advanced light water reactors as soon as possible, (2) completion of the Yucca Mountain project, (3) designing and building a Next Generation Nuclear Plant and (4) closing the nuclear fuel cycle, in that order.

We must harness the promising potential of nuclear energy in this country, not leave it to other countries of the world. 

We must also move toward a hydrogen economy – and that requires that we develop a way to produce large volumes of hydrogen at a stable, low cost.  A new generation of nuclear energy plants can provide that source of hydrogen.

Our country’s economy and quality of life depend on it.  Our children and our grandchildren depend on it.

Thank you for listening today.  I will be pleased to respond to your questions.