The US Senate has rejected an amendment by a vote of 50-48 to strike nuclear loan guarantees from S. 14, the Energy Policy Act of 2003.
US Senator and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Pete Domenici, praised the outcome of the vote that turned back an attempt to strike most of the nuclear energy provisions from the national energy policy legislation.
He said: "The amendment was a serious threat that could have undercut any effort to pass a broad, balanced and common-sense approach to meeting our nation's energy needs. While we try to maximize domestic energy production through traditional and renewable resources, we cannot ignore the vast benefits that nuclear energy offers the nation." Among other things, the nuclear provisions in S.14 would: • Authorise the construction of a nuclear-hydrogen cogeneration project at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.
• Offer loan guarantees for the construction of 8400MWe of nuclear capacity.
• Permanently re-authorise the Price-Anderson Act. This would amend the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to extend to 1 August 2017.
Domenici added: "We face a looming natural gas crisis in this country that could wreak havoc on our economy. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testified on that pending crisis today before the House Energy & Commerce Committee. We cannot keep building one natural gas plant after another when our demand is already outstripping our supply. The US must, once again, start building nuclear power plants, using state-of-the-art nuclear technology that this country has never seen." The measure marks the most ambitious attempt to energize the nuclear industry in decades and goes much further to help nuclear power than House legislation passed in April.
Nuclear power accounts for about 20% of the power generated in the US, but no new plant has been ordered for nearly 30 years.
Several companies have filed papers with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission declaring an interest in building a new-design reactor in the near future. These will probably be positioned at within existing nuclear sites.
Industry representatives have argued that the government safety net is needed at least for the first group of reactors now that the power industry is in transition, albeit slow, from highly regulated to competitive markets.