|President Bush, left, is given a tour of turbine room of Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Lusby, Maryland|
It has been more than 30 years since anyone has placed an order for a new reactor in the United States, largely because of public concerns over nuclear safety following the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania in 1979 and the explosion at Ukraine's Chernobyl facility in 1986.
But with oil pushing $60 a barrel, President Bush says it is time to re-energize America's nuclear power industry. "Nuclear power is one of America's safest sources of energy," he said.
The president pushed his plan during a tour of a nuclear plant south of Washington where he put on a hard hat and also addressed public safety concerns about nuclear power.
"Some Americans remember the problems that the nuclear plants had back in the 1970s. We all remember those days," he said. "That frightened a lot of folks. Yet people have got to understand that advances in science and engineering and plant design have made nuclear plants far safer, far safer than ever before."
President Bush also cast the issue as one of competitive advantage in a global economy. Even without a new plant in 30 years, the United States gets about 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. In the same time, President Bush says France has built 58 reactors, which supply about 80 percent of the country's electricity.
Many scientists continue to express concern about the safe disposal of nuclear material. But much of the environmental issue has shifted in the last 30 years because nuclear plants do not produce so-called greenhouse-gas emissions like oil, coal, and natural-gas facilities. "There is a growing consensus that more nuclear power will lead to a cleaner, safer nation," the president said.
As part of his energy bill, President Bush wants the government to provide risk insurance to protect new plant builders from licensing and legal delays. Congress is considering loan guarantees and tax breaks for new reactors.