“Nuclear Renaissance: Challenges & Opportunities Associated with Spent Fuel”

Roundtable, Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change and Nuclear Safety

I thank Senator Voinovich for hosting this roundtable with me. I am eager to learn more about nuclear recycling and look forward to today’s discussions.

As Americans, we face some tough issues like a national financial crisis, global warming, air pollution, and high energy costs. And I believe a strong and safe nuclear industry can help us address some of these crucial issues.

Nuclear power provides reliable power – cleanly. By using nuclear for energy in place of fossil fuels, we reduce air pollutants that harm public health and contribute to global warming.

Using plug-in hybrids and clean nuclear energy, we can reduce our growing reliance on foreign oil and unchain our economy from the whims of hostile governments.

A nuclear renaissance can revive our manufacturer base and provide crucial jobs for Americans facing a declining economy. 

And, these will be good paying jobs that could be filled by our soldiers coming back home from Iraq and Afghanistan or by Americans recently laid off by the automobile industry.

This is why over the past few years, my friend from Ohio, Senator George Voinovich and I have worked so closely together in our EPW subcommittee to make the nuclear renaissance a reality. 

Fortunately, we have made significant progress. Everyday, we are getting closer to seeing a new generation of nuclear power in America.

The Nuclear Regulatory Committee — the or NRC — has already received license applications for the first reactors to be built in more than 30 years.

It is expected that 34 new nuclear units may be built in the next 10 to 15 years.

In addition to these new facilities, the current nuclear fleet has increased its capacity, and is extending its lifetime through the NRC renewable license process.

However, as this nuclear renaissance gets off the ground, we have a big elephant in the room that we aren ’t addressing – and that is what are we going to do we do with the nuclear spent fuel? 

I’ve long thought that we may need a bookend to the Manhattan Project. A massive research and development and demonstration effort to close the nuclear fuel cycle in a safe and non-proliferation way manner.

This research and development effort could be paid for through revenue generated by a climate change cap-and-trade program, or through the fees collected by the Nuclear Waste Fund.

I also believe that by developing proliferation-resistant technology, we can provide this technology in other countries that want to develop nuclear energy – and also rest easy about the development of nuclear weapons in those countries.

I believe it is crucial to couple this for this effort to be coupled with an education and outreach strategy to educate the public. We cannot afford to make the same mistakes we have made in the past (Yucca Mountain).

Having said that, I look forward to continuing working with my colleague, Senator Voinovich, to ensure the safety of the nuclear industry.

For the nuclear industry to be truly successful one word is key – and that is safety.

I look forward to your comments, Senator Voinovich.