NEMA had the privilege of hosting a lunch for former Governor and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman the other day. Ms. Whitman is running the Whitman Strategy Group, a consulting firm that specializes in environmental and energy issues. Recognizing NEMA's significant role these days in energy policy, she visited with us to make the case for the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition (or CASEnergy Coalition). (She co-chairs the Coalition with Patrick Moore, former leader of Greenpeace.) The Coalition supports increasing America's use of nuclear energy, which because of its affordability and lack of greenhouse emissions, is becoming a "go-to" energy source globally. In fact, many countries in Europe and Asia rely far more on nuclear energy than we do.
Gov. Whitman's point is this: If as a nation we are going to need at least 20% more electricity by 2030 … if we're looking to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions … if we're trying to reduce our dependence on overseas energy supplies, then nuclear energy must play an increasingly important role in our country's future. (Check out her "Case for Nuclear Power" in Business Week.)
Makes sense to me. NEMA manufacturers, of course, historically haven't favored one energy source over another — they just require abundant and inexpensive energy supplies from whatever source is readily available. So it's a no-brainer that NEMA would support the removal of barriers and creation of incentives to building new nuclear power plants here (the last reactor built in this country was in the 1970s).
Of course, there are issues that need to be resolved — not so much with safety (modern plants in the West have an excellent record of safety), but with how to store used nuclear fuel. It may be a political challenge, but considering the greater energy-related challenges facing us, my bet is the politicians will resolve this sooner rather than later.