Nuclear Options for Meeting Future Energy Goals
On June 25, 2003, the Sustainable Energy Institute held its third SERS event: "Nuclear Options for Meeting Future Energy Goals." Steve Fetter, Professor at the School of Public Affairs of the University of Maryland and a member of SEI's Board of Directors, moderated the discussion between presenters Dr. Gail Marcus of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology and Mr. David Lochbaum, Nuclear Safety Engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Professor Fetter introduced the session by noting that there is no sign of an emerging consensus on the four key obstacles to expanded use of nuclear power: capital cost of nuclear reactors, safety risks, waste disposal challenges and proliferation concerns. Dr. Marcus emphasized the U.S. government's important role in addressing new nuclear power technologies as a response to both increased energy demand and concerns about global warming. The U.S. government has a role in helping finance the building of new nuclear energy plants, suggested Marcus, as set out in the Nuclear Power 2010 DOE initiative. Lochbaum stated that the future of the nuclear industry is uncertain because of weak federal oversight by the NRC and bad management by industry leaders, and suggested that the NRC be reformed. On the nature and structure of nuclear energy financing, Marcus said the government's costs would eventually fall to zero, as legislative discussions were only focused on loan guarantees. Finally, the participants and presenters discussed how advanced nuclear technologies could potentially offer improved proliferation resistance in comparison with existing technology.