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  • How to be a Maverick on Nuclear Energy

    It’s no secret that presidential nominee John McCain wants to build more nuclear power plants in the United States. He’s called for 45 new plants by 2030 (and more if possible). It’s also no secret that Senator McCain holds the nickname “maverick” for disagreeing with his own party and blazing his own path when it comes to policymaking. Add these two qualities together and Senator McCain could craft a unique energy policy that would spur an energy revolution. The best part is: he can sit back and let the market do most of the work. This doesn’t exclude Barack Obama; if he wants to “change” the scope of nuclear energy in America, this four-point-plan’s for him too.

    1.) Privatize waste management:

    We’ve said it before and we’ll stress it again: To begin the process of overhauling the nation’s nuclear-waste management regime, Congress should amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (as well as other efforts) to encourage development of a market-based management system for used nuclear fuel. Specifically, Congress should:

    • Create the legal framework that allows the private sector to price geologic storage as a commodity;
    • Empower the private sector to manage used fuel;
    • Repeal the 70,000-ton limitation on the Yucca Mountain repository and instead let technology, science, and physical capacity determine the appropriate limit;
    • Create a private entity that is representative of but independent from nuclear operators to manage Yucca Mountain;
    • Repeal the mil, abolish the Nuclear Waste Fund, and transfer the remaining funds to a private entity to cover the expenses of constructing Yucca Mountain; and
    • Limit the federal government’s role to providing oversight, basic research, and development and taking title of spent fuel upon repository decommissioning.

    A more detailed analysis is here.

    2.) Fast track permitting

    Congress should authorize a fast-track program to cut, by at least fifty percent, the amount of time it takes to permit a new plant.. Such a proposal would direct the NRC to focus its efforts on fast-tracked applications. To participate in the program, the new plants would have to be of an NRC certified design, be located on a site that already has a plant, and be operated by an experienced nuclear operator. In order to support the plan, Congress should provide the NRC with the appropriate resources and direct America’s national laboratories to organize in support of the effort. The Heritage Foundation will soon release a paper with a more thorough approach.

    3.) Move away from the subsidy first mentality

    A subsidy-centric proposal to rebuild America’s nuclear industry is neither needed nor appropriate. As if loan guarantees, production tax credits, and insurance against regulatory delays weren’t enough, word on Capital Hill is that Congress now thinks that federal training programs and tax breaks for nuclear companies are needed to spur the nuclear renaissance. The reality is the market is taking care of this. Commercial nuclear companies are already investing to expand their capacity and train their workers. And that is before anyone has even committed to building a new reactor. Those that make the right investments today will be the ones best positioned to take advantage of future nuclear markets.

    For instance, see here, here, here, here, and here. Trust me, there’s more. And students are enrolling in nuclear engineering programs across the country like you wouldn’t believe because they know the money will be hand over fist.

    The time has come for Congress to learn from past mistakes and help build a nuclear industry that does not rely on subsidies.

    4.) Fight to liberalize commercial nuclear commerce between peaceful, friendly countries

    This one will require some effort, but the benefits will be enormous. The U.S. must work with other friendly nations to solve the many remaining issues that prevent the peaceful growth of nuclear power. Chief among these issues are: regulatory, trade (including commodity tariffs), waste, safety and national security. International commercial nuclear markets are some of the world’s most regulated and tightly controlled. The U.S. must gain access to the potential boom in global nuclear business to rebuild its own nuclear industry and have access to the goods and services that are required to meet energy demands. It should be a priority for the next administration to work with other countries to break down these barriers.

    And that’s how you be a “maverick” or implement “change” . Anything less will be more of the same.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to How to be a Maverick on Nuclear Energy

    1. Pingback: Pages tagged "investing"

    2. Marcel F. Williams says:

      The people of Nevada don't want to be the central repository for nuclear waste material. But the federal government has an obligation to secure fissile material in this country especially if we don't want it in the hands of terrorist. So let's do what is fair and logical when it comes to radioactive waste:

      1. To mandate that all radioactive waste material that exist within the geographic territory of a state be kept within that state at environmentally secured federal, state, or private facilities for up to 200 years.

      2. I'd allow states that posses radioactive waste to petition the federal government to fund, construct, operate, and secure federal radioactive waste repositories within their states designed to securely house radioactive material for up to 200 years.

      3. After 200 years, the waste would be removed from the state repositories or nuclear parks for final deposition. Final deposition could be extraterrestrial disposal using 23rd century space technology, or deep sea disposal, or disposal on a tiny island, or transmutation.

      To expand nuclear power generation in this country, there should be fast track licensing for new reactors on existing sites. There's enough land at this sites to double or triple our current nuclear capacity without going into further environmental impact studies, especially since the latest generation of reactors have statistical frequencies of meltdowns at least 100 times lower than current reactors.

      Secondly, nuclear reactors must do more than just simply supply electricity. They must also be used to replace the rest of our fossil fuel economy.

      This is no time to play with the energy future of the US by simply relying on the invisible hand of capitalism. We need to create a Federal Nuplex Corporation so that states could petition the federal government to build — nuclear energy parks– within their state to house and reprocess all of their nuclear waste for fuel which could then be utilized on site. A nuclear energy park would consist of 10 to 40 reactors and would be utilized to produce regional electric power, ammonia for agricultural fertilizer and hydrogen for the production of synthetic hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline, diesel fuel, and aviation fuel through biomass or through the extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Adding hydrogen to biomass increases the efficiency of synthetic fuel production by 3 to 5 times.

      Private industry would benefit by competing with each other for federal contracts to building hundreds or perhaps thousands of nuclear reactors which should dramatically drive down the capital cost of nuclear reactors and nuclear power. The American people would benefit by being the owners and reaping the profits from the Nuplex Corporation along with the benefits of cheap energy along with the enhanced safety of centralized military protected nuclear parks.

      Marcel F. Williams

    3. Thomas Gray, South Carolina says:

      Mr loris,,

      I’m not a wise man but this seems like an acceptable plan to me and I do support it, perhaps you may be able to find a way to present it to whomever becomes the next president,,,

      The sad fact is at the end of the next ten to twenty years oil is going to be to expensive to use as a transportation fuel and since the only workable alternative is electric in my opinion your on the right road,, becouse were going to need very large amounts of electricity as we use it for transportation.

      The people that make all the argument against atom power really need to spend any night in january out of doors in maine when the temp is twenty five degree’s below zero and come out of la la land,, I have had to do it twice and am lucky to still have ten fingers and toes. Tom.

    4. Donald Pay says:

      Here's the real maverick position: eliminate totally all federal participation in nuclear energy—no federal loan guarantees or liability protections, no federal bureaucracies giving out grants to think tanks or corporations to "study" nuclear energy, require payback from the nuclear industry for all past taxpayer funded subsidies of the industry, require the industry to clean up all uranium tailings, and pollution from other nuclear facilities and to pay back to the taxpayer all previous costs for such cleanup with interest.

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