A case for nuclear power
To the editor,
America's agenda for this decade is dominated by economic concerns, but the public apparently doesn't see clearly the need for clean energy to ensure greater productivity. Our own experience in Mississippi with safe and reliable nuclear power demonstrates this. If more evidence is needed, look at the lackluster performance of the economy in California, a state where anti-growth environmentalism prevails.
What's more, meeting the challenge of world competition requires an industrial strategy to accelerate productivity through maximum use of capital, labor, energy and technology. Policy makers warn that America's economy will lose its edge if current productivity trends continue. In response, dozens of corporations are turning to quality programs to help maintain their world competitive position.
Quality programs alone aren't enough. Three decades of experience teaches that energy policy is a key to achieving economic goals. The record is equally clear that using more electricity, especially that generated by nuclear power plants, boosts productivity and helps keep the environment clean. However to make nuclear power an option for electric utilities, The House should act now to approve a Senate-passed energy bill that will provide loan guarantees for up to 50 percent of the cost to construct six advanced nuclear plants and $1 billion to develop a new cogeneration reactor that produces both electricity and hydrogen. This step will show that the nation is serious about improving productivity and protecting the environment.
To take advantage of electricity's potential, President Bush's nation energy policy projects the need for between 1,300 and 1,900 new power plants by 2020; that averages to more than 60 to 90 new plants a year, or more than one a week. At least some of these plants will need to use nuclear power, since nuclear plants operate reliably and their costs are low, stable and predictable. Consider that improvements in the performance of U.S. nuclear plants have added the equivalent of 25 plants to the nation's electricity grid since 1990.
Power plant designers have blueprints and a timetable for new advanced nuclear plants. Three designs already have been certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The new reactors are even safer than today's operating plants and are built from common designs. Combining better licensing and standard design will cut years from construction schedules and billions from costs.
The Senate energy bill doesn't guarantee new orders for nuclear plants. However, it will give utilities like Entergy and the Southern Company an option that not only offers reasonably-priced electric power but also contributes to environmental quality and improves productivity. It's an option that's needed to help the American economy hold its number one position in fiercely competitive world markets.
C.T. Carley, Ph.D.,P.E.
Professor Emeritus of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering
Mississippi State University