May 3, 2001
12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. - “If we ever hope to achieve energy security and energy independence in this country, we cannot abandon the nuclear option. It is an important and integral part of our energy mix. Four or five years ago, who would have thought we would hear talk of buying and selling plants, and – yes – even building new plants. Today this discussion is happening,” said Chairman Frank H. Murkowski today during a hearing on the state of the nuclear power industry and its future in a comprehensive energy strategy. Today the United States has 103 operating reactors in 31 states, producing 20 percent of our electricity. Five additional states have plants no longer in operation. Worldwide, 433 reactors are in operation, generating electricity in 29 countries. In France, 59 nuclear reactors generate 75 percent of the nations electricity. In Japan, 53 reactors supply nearly 40 percent of its electricity consumption. “Production of electricity from nuclear energy emits no greenhouse gases and no carbon dioxide. Nuclear power keeps this nation’s electrical grid stable and reliable, and supplies nearly 16 percent of California’s electricity. Without it, the California grid would have collapsed,” said Murkowski. “High natural gas prices and low uranium prices have helped to make electricity produced from nuclear some of the cheapest in the country.” Until recently, it seemed that nuclear energy was a dying industry in the United States and once current plant licenses expired, reactors would shut down. It was thought nuclear reactors would not be competitive in a deregulated electricity industry and many would cease operating even before their 40-year license expired. In the past year, the industry appears to have undergone a change that has led many to believe they will not only survive, but even grow. Plants are operating at record efficiencies and being bought and sold at record prices. Costs are down and some utilities are even discussing the possibility of building new reactors. “Even recent polling indicates the American public might be more accepting than they once were. Last month, the Associated Press commissioned a poll that suggests half of those polled support using nuclear power plants to produce electricity and 56 percent wouldn’t mind a nuclear plant within 10 miles of their home. Granted, we still have to solve the problem of waste generated from nuclear energy, but I believe that has been more of a political problem than a technical one,” Murkowski said. ###