Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Nuclear the ultimate in ‘green’ energy

Guest Writer
Guest Opinion

As our energy needs increase and the effort to deal with climate change moves forward, it is hard to imagine how ambitious goals could be achieved without an expansion of nuclear energy.

Nuclear would not only help meet our nation’s demand, but also would do so in a way that reduces carbon dioxide emissions and could even reduce our reliance on foreign oil.

It is a terrific resource for baseload generation and is subject to very little price volatility.

Nuclear is the ultimate green, stable energy source, as France and many other nations have figured out.

France, for example, generates 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, compared with about 20 percent for the United States.

Make no mistake, even with the economic decline, the need for new energy is enormous.

The U.S. Energy Administration Agency predicts that by 2030, the world will need to increase its energy production by 50 percent.

And the new administration is clearly serious about tackling climate change. The Cap and Trade program proposed by President Obama in his budget is expected to cost $646 billion to $2 trillion over its first eight years. Yet there is very little discussion from the new administration on the role nuclear energy can play.

The focus is on renewable generation. That’s an important component. But the narrow focus on renewables renders any plan incomplete.

Renewable sources, such as solar energy, should and will play an increasingly important role in the generation of electricity in Arizona and the United States, but they cannot deliver the power necessary to fuel our growth today.

Solar, for example, is growing quickly. But it produces less than 1 percent of the electricity generation in Arizona and in the United States.

In contrast, nuclear produces 75 percent of the carbon-free electricity in the United States today and about 25 percent of Arizona’s total electric output.

The United States puts itself in serious jeopardy by being unprepared for its future electricity needs in a carbon-constrained world.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, electricity demand will rise 21 percent by 2030. To maintain nuclear energy’s current 20 percent of generation, the United States would have to build three reactors every two years starting in 2016.

There is some good news. The 2005 federal Energy Act contained a number of provisions that seem to be revitalizing the U.S. nuclear industry. More than two dozen proposals are in the pipeline to build new reactors.

We need to do more to encourage nuclear, though. Licensing these plants is far too lengthy a process. It can easily take more than a decade to site a plant in the United States – which is more than double the time span in some countries.

Some help is in the creative No Cost Stimulus Act by Rep. John Shadegg, which proposes expediting the regulatory process for plants.

There is no silver bullet for meeting our energy challenges, but nuclear needs to be a serious part of the discussion, especially if we are addressing carbon regulations.

Glenn Hamer is president and chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

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