The U.S. Department of Energy officially submitted the license application to build a nuclear waste facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada earlier this week. A strong supporter of the Lieberman-Warner carbon-capping bill, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was incredulous, telling reporters: “Yucca Mountain is as close to being dead as any piece of legislation could be.” However, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) both recognize that their bill will not pass without more nuclear power.
Far to Warner and Lieberman’s left though, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) thinks their bill does not need to reform the nuclear industry: “Already in the bill there’s a whole funding stream for these low-carbon, noncarbon energy sources and that’s sufficient. I don’t think you need more.” It is nice that Boxer believes this–but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) sure don’t.
Throughout the debate on Lieberman-Warner, activists such as the Environmental Defense Fund have quoted selectively from EPA and EIA studies to minimize the ruinous effects the bill would have on the U.S. economy. For example, this press release celebrates the fact that under Lieberman-Warner the economy will grow by 80 percent by 2030.
What the EDF doesn’t tell you is that the same report says Lieberman-Warner would raise energy prices by 44 percent in the same time frame. But the real kicker comes when you look at the assumptions the EPA made to come to its conclusions. Despite the fact that the U.S. has not built a new nuclear reactor in two decades, the EPA assumes that the U.S. will build 50 new reactors in the next 25 years.
Without these new power plants, which the Environmental Defense Fund no doubt will oppose, the U.S. economy will be 650 gigawatts of electric power short of its needs. That will send the price of energy through the roof — and kill many more jobs than the EPA currently estimates.
The EIA also cooks new nuclear power plants into its books. EIA estimates that with new nuclear power plants, the price of electricity would rise between 11 percent and 64 percent by 2030. But the EIA’s nuclear estimates are even more ambitious than the EPA’s. To keep the increase in energy prices from Lieberman-Warner as low as possible, the EIA assumes the U.S. will build almost 200 nuclear power plants over the next 25 years. You won’t find that fact on the Environmental Defense Fund website.
Although Joe Lieberman is at least realistic about the role nuclear power must play to keep the economic damage from his legislation to a minimum, he does not have a firm grasp on the legislative changes needed to revive the nuclear industry. Lieberman proposes adding funding for training plant workers and nuclear engineers. That isn’t the problem.
The regulations that have strangled the nuclear industry for a generation need a systematic overhaul that includes: putting industry in charge of fuel cycle management, supporting regulatory relief, removing tariffs on needed construction materials, expanding domestic production of uranium, taking the lead in developing a new international framework for managing the global growth of nuclear power, and, of course, finding a role for Yucca Mountain in the industry’s fuel-management system.
- Neighborhood councils in Iraq are taking responsibility for a wide range of local affairs, an important step in the U.S. plan to improve security and give Iraqis a bigger stake in their own country.
- Large investors are pouring billions of dollars into agriculture, betting worldwide food prices will not fall.
- The Senate approved a blueprint that would result in the largest tax increase in our nation’s history by letting the 2003 tax cuts expire.
- Outside the U.N. emergency food summit, protesters criticized the U.S. mandate on biofuels, blaming them for part of the rise in world food prices.