Friday, January 29, 2010

DOE Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future

Jan 29: As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to restarting America’s nuclear industry, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced the formation of a Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future to provide recommendations for developing a safe, long-term solution to managing the Nation’s used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. The Commission is being co-chaired by former Congressman Lee Hamilton and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

DOE indicated that in light of the Administration’s decision not to proceed with the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, President Obama has directed Secretary Chu to establish the Commission to conduct a comprehensive review of policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. The Commission will provide advice and make recommendations on issues including alternatives for the storage, processing, and disposal of civilian and defense spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.

In his State of the Union address on January 27, the President said, ". . .to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America." [See WIMS 1/28/10].

Secretary Chu said, “Nuclear energy provides clean, safe, reliable power and has an important role to play as we build a low-carbon future. The Administration is committed to promoting nuclear power in the United States and developing a safe, long-term solution for the management of used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. The work of the Blue Ribbon Commission will be invaluable to this process. I want to thank Congressman Hamilton and General Scowcroft for leading the Commission and I look forward to receiving their recommendations." Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change said, “As the world moves to tackle climate change and diversify our national energy portfolio, nuclear energy will play a vital role. Today, the Obama Administration has taken an important step. With the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission, we are bringing together leading experts from around the country to ensure a safe and sustainable nuclear energy future.”

During a recent hearing before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Republican members questioned Chu extensively on the need for a more ambitious role of nuclear energy in the mix of technologies to address climate and energy issues. Chu said he and the Administration agree that nuclear energy must be an important part of the energy solution [See WIMS 1/21/10].

Congressman Hamilton said, "Finding an acceptable long-term solution to our used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste storage needs is vital to the economic, environmental and security interests of the United States. This will be a thorough, comprehensive review based on the best available science. I'm looking forward to working with the many distinguished experts on this panel to achieve a consensus on the best path forward." General Scowcroft said, "As the United States responds to climate change and moves forward with a long overdue expansion of nuclear energy, we also need to work together to find a responsible, long-term strategy to deal with the leftover fuel and nuclear waste. I'm pleased to be part of that effort along with Congressman Hamilton and such an impressive group of scientific and industry experts."

The Commission is made up of 15 members who have a range of expertise and experience in nuclear issues, including scientists, industry representatives, and respected former elected officials. The Commission’s co-chairs have a record of tackling tough challenges in a thoughtful, comprehensive manner and building consensus among an array of interests. The Commission is charged with producing an interim report within 18 months and a final report within 24 months.

Other members of the Commission include: Mark Ayers, President, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO; Vicky Bailey, Former Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Former IN PUC Commissioner; Former Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs; Albert Carnesale, Chancellor Emeritus and Professor, UCLA; Pete V. Domenici, Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center; former U.S. Senator (R-NM); Susan Eisenhower, President, Eisenhower Group, Inc.; Chuck Hagel, Former U.S. Senator (R-NE); Jonathan Lash, President, World Resources Institute; Allison Macfarlane, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University; Richard A. Meserve, President, Carnegie Institution for Science, and former Chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Ernie Moniz, Professor of Physics and Cecil & Ida Green Distinguished Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Per Peterson, Professor and Chair, Department of Nuclear Engineering, University of California - Berkeley; John Rowe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Exelon Corporation; and Phil Sharp, President, Resources for the Future.

Access a release from DOE (click here). Access the Presidential Memo directing the establishment of the Commission (click here). Access DOE's Nuclear Energy website for additional information (click here).

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