Congress has pursued a strategy of taxing fossil fuels in order to discourage their consumption and has heavily subsidized alternative energy sources such as wind and solar. This strategy ignores an inconvenient truth – renewable energy cannot meet the nation’s everyday power demands.
Often, however, the most efficient and proven source of carbon-free energy – nuclear power – has been the conspicuously missing link in the climate debate. This month, as the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I have co-sponsored the American Energy Act. It would establish a national goal of licensing 100 new nuclear reactors over the next 20 years by streamlining a burdensome regulatory process and ensuring safe storage and recycling of spent nuclear fuel.
In 2008, the 104 nuclear reactors operating in the United States produced more than 800 billion kilowatt-hours, equal to 19 percent of our total electricity output and representing nearly 75 percent of U.S. carbon-free electricity.
For 30 years, economic and social constraints sidelined the development of nuclear power in the United States. Today, social and economic shifts have placed the nuclear industry on the cusp of a renaissance. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing applications for 26 new reactors that would provide 34,000 more megawatts of electricity. Even as our economy struggles, nuclear energy has created almost 15,000 jobs in the last three years.
Regrettably, clean nuclear energy continues to stir fears that harken to earlier times of environmental suspicion and political bias. In more than 50 years of operation, however, not a single American has lost his or her life as a result of commercial nuclear power.
Regrettably, America still lags behind other nations that are already producing safe, clean nuclear technologies and developing new methods to secure and reprocess nuclear waste. Still in its infancy, nuclear power is nonetheless a titan in the energy world.