Monday, June 18, 2007

Report Finds Agreements On Nuclear Power Issues

Jun 14: The Keystone Center released a report showing areas of agreement from a diverse – and perhaps surprising – group of stakeholders on the risks and benefits of nuclear power as they relate to climate change, safety and security, economics, waste, reprocessing and proliferation. The Joint Fact-Finding on Nuclear Power reports conclusions from 27 participants associated with the nuclear industry, environmental groups, consumer advocates, government regulators, consultants, and academics. The group met from September 2006 through May 2007 and agreed on several critical issues, including: Climate Change; Economics; Safety and Security; Waste; Reprocessing; Proliferation; and The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP).

Financial Support for the project came from American Electric Power, Constellation Energy, Duke Energy, Entergy Corporation, Exelon, Florida Power & Light, General Electric, National Commission on Energy Policy, Nuclear Energy Institute, Pew Charitable Trusts, and Southern Company.

Some of the groups involved included: Union of Concerned Scientists; Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense; Clean Air Task Force; Nuclear Energy Institute; National Wildlife Federation; Maine Department of Environmental Protection; Duke Power; GE Energy; Entergy Corp.; American Electric Power; George Mason University; and others.

For example, on the issue of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership the report concludes, "that critical elements of the program are unlikely to succeed." On the highly controversial issue of nuclear waste management, the report says: "Spent nuclear fuel must ultimately be placed in long-term disposal facilities. The best disposal option is deep underground geologic repositories, and suitable environments exist in the U.S. and the world. There is little confidence that the proposed repository at Yucca Mountain will meet its already delayed schedule. Given this experience, the search for a second or an alternative site would benefit from a different approach. Until an operating repository is available, older spent fuel can be stored safely and securely, on-site. Centralized interim storage is a reasonable alternative for managing waste from decommissioned plant sites."

On the subject of Climate Change, the report indicates: "We considered hypothetical scenarios for nuclear expansion in order to better understand what role nuclear power might play in mitigating global climate change. In order to achieve a 25 gigatonne carbon reduction from nuclear power over 50 years (a Pacala/Socolow “wedge”), the nuclear industry would need to return immediately to the most rapid period of growth experienced in the past and sustain this growth rate. This projection is more ambitious than indicated by current announcements of proposed plant construction, and the group reached no consensus about the likely rate of expansion. In a carbon-constrained world, the relative economics of nuclear power will improve."

Mike Hughes, vice president of The Keystone Center said, “We congratulate the group for what it accomplished over many months of constructive work on these extraordinarily complex issues. The debate about nuclear power has endured for decades, and is not likely to disappear soon. However, this group has found agreement on a number of critical issues, and has significantly narrowed differences on others, which should help Congress, the administration, and the public as they consider the future of nuclear power in this country.”

The Keystone Center is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1975 to help facilitate cross-sector dialogues on pressing environmental, energy, and public health issues. The Keystone Center does not take positions or advocate particular points of view. Instead, it convenes meetings on issues and facilitates practical, consensus-based solutions that break old logjams or that avert unnecessary future disputes over science and public policy.

Access a release listing all 27 stakeholder participants (
click here). Access links to an executive summary, briefing announcement, audio clips, and related information (click here). Access the 108-page final report (click here). Access the Keystone Center website (click here). [*Haz/Nuclear]