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Advantages of Nuclear Power in U.S.

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 10, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Two Republican lawmakers have teamed up to put the U.S. on the road to energy independence by focusing on redeveloping something that we are all familiar with. That's nuclear power. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY (voice-over): Saving America starts with making viable energy right here in America. While many are exploring new green initiatives, Republicans are proposing utilizing and expanding a power source that has been around for decades. That's nuclear power.

SEN. DAVID VITTER (R-LA): Nuclear has to be an important part of the solution.

Video: Watch Sean's interview

HANNITY: Senator David Vitter of Louisiana and Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona have a, quote, "no-cost stimulus bill." Now, the bill would harness domestic energy sources to stimulate job growth.

Their proposal would explore and expand production in all energy sectors, including opening new areas for drilling in ANWR, opening more natural gas, wind, and geothermal plants, as well as streamlining the licensing of new nuclear power plants.

REP. JOHN SHADEGG (R-AZ): The reality is nuclear power is clean, it's safe, and it produces the quantities of energy that we need for a strong economy. There is no reason not to move forward other than political bias.

HANNITY: Nuclear energy currently provides about 20 percent of our nation's power and accounts for 70 percent of the country's emission-free energy. If that number sounds like a lot, well, it's not. France gets 75 percent of their power from nuclear plants.

Nuclear plants are far less costly to operate than coal or natural gas plants, and the fuel they produce, uranium, is the cheapest form of power, and it can also produce emission-free energy 24 hours a day.

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In a recent Gallup poll, 59 percent of people said they were in favor of nuclear energy.

There are currently 104 commercial nuclear power plants operating in the United States. And they all have operated without a serious incident for decades.

Jim Steets is a spokesman for a company that owns Indian Power and Nuclear Plants in Buchanan, New York.

JIM STEETS, SPOKESMAN FOR ENERGY: These are extremely valuable plants, not just for this area, not just for the electricity it provides which is immensely important, but for the economic impact it has on this community.

Think of it. There are 1,100 permanent employees here. We have about $750 million economic impact in this area.

HANNITY: Steets estimates that during the winter the plant provides 20 percent of all power to New York City and Westchester County. And during the summer when energy demands skyrocket, the figure can climb up to 40 percent.

But nuclear power has its critics.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I am concerned about is if there is no serious effort when it comes to the storage and safety of nuclear materials, us just going about the way we've been doing it: building these big plants with huge cost overruns that end up having all sorts of significant safety concerns. That's not an efficient way for us to go.

HANNITY: Earlier this year Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada celebrated President Obama's decision to end the government's bid to store nuclear waste in the Yucca Mountain, Nevada, site.

STEETS: Had the federal government met its obligation to accept fuel at the commercial nuclear plant across the country, then the fuel would be going to Yucca Mountain, instead, though. These utilities responsibly taking matters into their own hands, have built their own storage facilities, and these are what we call dry cap storage.

HANNITY: In addition to waste, critics point to the exorbitant cost of building the plants, which can be in the billions, often running over budget and over time, and fears of safety are continually raised, with many reminding the public of Three Mile Island. That's a name synonymous with the biggest nuclear accident in U.S. history, but the lessons learned from Three Mile Island have forced industry-wide safety standards.

STEETS: Three Mile Island is actually a good example of how well-designed these plants are to ensure safety. That is about as bad an accident as you can get what occurred at Three Mile Island, and yet there were no offsite consequences from it.

But it was a very important lesson for us. Since Three Mile Island, we've added simulators, which are exact duplicates of the control room. Every plant in the country has a simulator, where we continuously train our operators.

HANNITY: So with such impressive statistics and safety standards in place, well, why hasn't there been a new plant built in the U.S. since 1996? Well, many blame it on the highly regulated process of trying to get a nuclear facility licensed, as well as limited state funding.

But at a time when our president is emptying America's wallet, and congressional stimulus packages do little to create jobs, well, perhaps building a new nuclear power plant could do the trick.

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, during construction it would employ 1,400 to 1,800 people and permanently employ 400 to 700 people, and that number can be higher, depending on the size of the plant.

The future of nuclear is being taken very seriously. The firm Hyper on Power Generation has developed a nuclear reactor the size of a garden shed that can produce electricity for ten years. That's the equivalent of powering 20,000 homes.

The reactor would be buried underground in concrete and would be factory sealed.

So each summer, as oil tops $4 a gallon, and global warming alarmist sound off, and everyone cries for a solution to the energy crisis, well, it's easy to see the benefits of Senator Vitter and Representative Shadegg's plan. What we can hope for is that President Obama is listening.

SHADEGG: The question is, do we buy that energy from foreign sources and create jobs offshore? Or do we produce that energy to get us to a cleaner, non-carbon energy future out of American resources? And this bill says let's look at American resources.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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