Nukes, Baby, Nukes

With regard to our energy independence, the BP oil disaster should be a call to action. Everyone knows we are dependent on fossil fuels coming from foreign sources yet; no one to date has the will to do anything serious and credible about it.

Nuclear energy is the Holy Grail of clean, safe and affordable energy that America can produce and exploit without detriment to the environment.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Glen L. Mc Cullough, Jr., the former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Glen wrote a terrific paper entitled, "Five Smart Energy Steps for America." This is what Glen said with regard to nuclear power:

Build advanced nuclear energy plants. Nuclear energy provides 20 percent of the nation's electricity but comprises 70 percent of our carbon-free electricity with no nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury or particulate emissions. Nuclear plants are online 91 percent of the time making nuclear the most reliable source of electricity. Nuclear energy is affordable with an average cost of around 1.9 cents per kWh.

Nuclear energy is safe. The U.S. Bureau of Labor reports that it is safer to work in a nuclear power plant than in a bank. Nuclear energy is also sustainable: ample uranium supplies exist and the U.S. should begin to recycle used fuel, which can power our nuclear plants for centuries.

But we must close the fuel cycle -- the U.S. Department of Energy should comply with the Nuclear Energy Act of 1982 and utilize the more than $24 billion paid by ratepayers to build a secure, national repository like Yucca Mountain.

Nuclear energy can be an economic boon. According to one of the largest U.S. electric utility companies, building 1,000 megawatts of advanced nuclear energy provides more than twice the amount of jobs than wind and six times more jobs than solar. What's more nuclear power plant employees earn high average salaries -- yet another reason 74 percent of Americans favor nuclear energy.

America today has approximately 100 operating nuclear power plants. For the past 30 years America all but put a complete halt to construction of new nuclear power plants in spite of the fact that the U.S. was the pioneer of this technology. Today the U.S. Navy operates over 150 nuclear powered ships and submarines. The Department of Defense has relied heavily on nuclear power while the private sector has been shut down by government regulation and environmental objection.

France is about the size of Texas and primarily relies on nuclear power for its electricity needs. In addition, France is the world's largest exporter of electric power.

So, not only is France providing adequately for its own needs but it is also selling excess to other nations in Europe. France has become an example for the rest of the world for providing clean and affordable energy.

Nuclear power plants do not pollute the air or produce greenhouse gases.

Today, thanks to technology, spent radioactive fuel can be reprocessed to recover fissile and fertile materials thereby providing fresh fuel for plants. Sadly, in America today there exists no civilian reprocessing plants in operation, although three have been built at great expense.

The world is passing by the very country that invented clean and safe nuclear power.

If our country is serious about becoming energy independent and free from foreign sources of fossil fuel then we need to get serious and build within the next 15 years 200 nuclear power plants throughout our nation.

We should also demand that Yucca Mountain be opened for storage as well as reprocessing. The average time for the permitting and construction of a nuclear power plant is between 8-10 years. The average life span of a nuclear power plant is 30+ years. Think of the jobs that could be created and the costs that could be amortized over long periods of time to make nuclear power affordable. It is a win win.

America needs a "moon shot" on energy and nuclear power is not "pie in the sky." If other countries can rely on nuclear power as a main source of their electricity needs then America should as well.

Forget "drill, baby, drill" we need "nukes, baby, nukes."

Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to the Fox Forum.

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