The president's proposal to triple loan guarantees for the industry would help fund an estimated seven to 10 new reactors -- an important start. The fact is that many more will be needed just to maintain nuclear energy's current 20% share of U.S. electricity production. The Electric Power Research Institute recently concluded that at least 45 new reactors will be needed as part of a portfolio of low-carbon technologies to achieve Congress' desired 42% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Widespread engagement will also help ensure that a diversity of alternatives is considered when it comes to identifying long-term solutions for used nuclear fuel.
Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Steven Chu ramped-up this effort by forming a blue-ribbon commission of scientists and other experts to evaluate policy options, including research into nuclear fuel recycling. Up to 95% of the energy content remains in uranium fuel after one use in a reactor.
Countries such as France, Japan and Britain already have made great strides in extracting unused energy from used nuclear fuel, at the same time reducing the amount and longevity of waste byproducts. By employing advanced recycling techniques, advanced fuel fabrication and new reactor designs, we could turn what is now considered waste into one of our most valuable future energy resources.