Webb, Alexander introduce bipartisan clean-energy legislation

Staff Report

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) today introduced the The Clean Energy Act of 2009, a bipartisan bill to promote further investment and development of the nation’s clean energy technologies, including nuclear power and other resources. The Alexander-Webb bill is designed to invigorate the economy, create jobs, and move the United States toward providing clean, carbon-free sources of energy.

The Clean Energy Act of 2009 spends $20 billion over the next 10 to 20 years to fund a series of loan guarantees; nuclear education and workforce training assistance; research into nuclear reactor lifetime-extension; and the development of solar power, biofuels, and alternative power technologies. The bill follows the urging of Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to increase funds available for the development of nuclear power facilities and technology.

“If we were going to war, we wouldn’t mothball our nuclear navy and start subsidizing sailboats. If addressing climate change and creating low-cost, reliable energy are national imperatives, we shouldn’t stop building nuclear plants and start subsidizing windmills,” said Sen. Alexander. “This legislation will create the business and regulatory environment to double our country’s nuclear power production within 20 years and to launch five Mini-Manhattan projects to make advanced clean energy technologies effective and cost-competitive.”

“This legislation is measurable, achievable, and targeted. By making a concerted investment in nuclear power and other renewable energy technologies, we can effectively address our nation’s energy requirements and also the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” said Sen. Webb. “This legislation is a practical approach to move the United States toward providing clean, carbon-free sources of energy, to help invigorate the economy, and to strengthen our workforce with educational opportunities and high-paying jobs on U.S. soil.”

The legislation directs the Department of Energy to conduct five “Mini-Manhattan Projects” to study carbon capture technologies, non-ethanol biofuels, electric vehicles and electricity storage, cost-competitive solar power, and Generation IV reactors and technologies that will ultimately reduce nuclear waste.

This initiative is also designed to keep the United States competitive in a global marketplace that has accelerated the development of nuclear power. While the U.S. has been at a stand-still in developing nuclear power in the last 30 years, others are forging ahead. France – with the lowest electric rates in Europe – now gets 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, while Japan’s nuclear fleet accounts for 35 percent of its electricity. And this week the United Kingdom announced plans to expand its reactor fleet.

The Clean Energy Act of 2009 provides a framework that will facilitate the revival of nuclear power and the expansion of renewable energies in the United States, including:
– A $10 billion appropriation that can leverage up to $100 billion in government backed loans for the development of clean, carbon-free energy to bring in investors and project developers to jump start efforts that are otherwise too capital-intensive up front.
– $100 million per year for 10 years toward nuclear education and training. The nuclear revival cannot take place without a workforce and for that reason the bill provides much-needed support to educate and train craftsmen, engineers, operators and other workers.
– $200 million per year for 5 years for a cost-sharing mechanism between government and industry to enable the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to review new nuclear reactor designs such as small and medium reactors and help bring those technologies from concept into the market place.
– $50 million per year for 10 years for much needed research to extend the lifetime of our current nuclear fleet and maximize the production of low-cost nuclear power.
– $750 million per year for 10 years for research and development of low-cost solar technology, battery technology, advanced bio-fuels, low-carbon coal, and technologies that will reduce nuclear waste.  Each of these will be funded at $150 million, annually.

Before introducing the legislation, Sens. Alexander and Webb addressed an audience of 1,500 assembled for the American Nuclear Society’s winter conference.