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Nuclear Energy: Policies and Technology for the 21st Century

The Department of Energy (DOE) Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee (NEAC) formed two subcommittees to develop a report for the new Administration: a Policy Subcommittee chartered to evaluate U.S. nuclear energy policy and a Technical Subcommittee to review facilities for nuclear energy programs. The two subcommittee reports follow this brief summary.1

The mission of the Policy Subcommittee was to explore the critical choices and implications in U.S. nuclear energy policy, with a view to framing options for the next President to consider.

Both in the United States and worldwide, nuclear power has the potential to curtail the dependence on fossil fuels and thereby to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions while promoting energy independence. Therefore, retaining nuclear power as a key piece of the nation’s energy portfolio strengthens U.S. energy security and environmental quality.

Given the stakes for the United States in the manner in which nuclear energy is used (and potentially misused) around the world, it is in U.S. national interest to play an active role in global efforts to address the safety, security, environmental, and proliferation implications of nuclear power.

Currently, there is substantial risk and uncertainty surrounding the ability and length of time actually required to license and build a nuclear power plant. This risk and uncertainty make it difficult to control the financial and material costs of building nuclear power plants and raise rates of return required by investors to commit capital to build them. Reducing such risk and uncertainty for new nuclear power plants with respect to other alternatives is the goal of U.S. legislation authorizing loan guarantees in support of nuclear power plant construction.

Encouraged by the offer of federal subsidies under the 2005 Energy Policy Act, a number of U.S. utilities are now seriously considering the addition of nuclear power plants to their portfolios of power generation assets.