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Virginia Could Capture International Nuclear Power Market

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A new study by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy shows that Virginia is in a position to capture a substantial share of the international nuclear power market. We are in a position to offer the technology, the engineering and the expertise to build safe and environmentally friendly nuclear power plants all over the world.

 The new study, Virginia Can Lead the Nation’s Nuclear Renaissance (here), focuses on the power potential from nuclear energy and the economic advantages available to Virginia from this expanding industry. It is written by Robert Hartwell, a technology business consultant, and Donald Hoffman, Chairman of the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium Authority and Immediate Past-President of the American Nuclear Society, 

 With continuing controversy surrounding oil, natural gas and coal production, nuclear power is an energy supply that should be, and could be, safely developed to meet a larger share of Virginia’s and the world’s future electrical power needs.

 This study demonstrates that nuclear power is safe and clean with very low environment-damaging emissions. Not only have there been no nuclear power plant disasters in this country, our navy has nuclear powered ships and has for decades. The small nuclear power plants in these vessels are safe and reliable. And France has proven that nuclear power can be safe, clean and beneficial. That nation generates over 75% of its electrical power usage from this energy source alone. Yet here in the United States only 20% of our power comes from nuclear sources. 

 We debate whether global warming is manmade or a natural recurring phenomenon. We struggle over our current energy mix with most reliance today on carbon based fuels. We witness charges and counter-charges hurled around over what is the best policy to meet our future energy needs. And today our nation has the ability to provide much more nuclear power than it does and that power is clean, reliable and safe. But it takes time to secure the regulatory approvals and build nuclear power plants. Let’s stop living under some false nightmare scenario about the dangers, and get on with building safe and reliable nuclear power as this timely study suggests.

 Virginia needs 4,000 megawatts of additional power by 2021. The authors of this study note that a large amount of that power could have come from nuclear plants. Such power would be less expensive for consumers, with a cost per kilowatt hour of less than one cent, compared to three and four times that amount for coal and natural gas. But we aren’t moving in that direction because of regulatory hurdles which, instead of encouraging nuclear power, discourage the aggressive development of this power.

Four new nuclear power plants could have provided all of our additional 4,000 megawatts of electricity needed in the next six years. Additionally, small nuclear power plants could become important additions to our needs by powering more of our military bases and other secure sites as well as providing energy supplies for smaller communities around the country and the world. These smaller nuclear power plants could even be installed underground if deemed more environmentally friendly and they would be safer from enemy attack.

 Today, Virginia imports over 50% of its current power needs, second only to California. Why should we have to rely on other states to provide our electrical power when we could provide it – or a good portion of it — ourselves with more use of nuclear power? Nuclear power has the potential to become a more significant piece of our energy mix and we should make this goal a state and national policy.    

 Perhaps most importantly, Virginia is poised to capture a major portion of the global nuclear technology market, estimated to approach $750 billion over the next ten years. If the U.S. could supply only 25% of the projected worldwide nuclear technology market, that would create 185,000 new jobs and add hundreds of billions of dollars to our gross national product. And there is no reason why we couldn’t capture a larger share of this market.

 Virginia is uniquely positioned to be the leader in the development of safe and environmentally friendly nuclear power. We should move quickly to secure this leadership positon in the world. To sit back will only allow China and Russia to move into this field. That would indeed be tragic.

 Coal, oil and natural gas continue to be critical to our future energy supplies. But nuclear power has the potential to help meet a larger percentage of our future energy requirements as our population increases and as we try to build a stronger economy.

 These authors have written a compelling case for Virginia to move aggressively to become the worldwide leader in nuclear power technology and construction of nuclear power plants of all sizes. We should take this challenge seriously.

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