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White House science adviser says new nuclear plants likely

Washington (Platts)--30Apr2009

The White House science adviser on Thursday acknowledged that the US
likely would build new nuclear power plants, but added that challenges to
embracing nuclear power remain.

"We are probably going to see some new nuclear power plants in this
country," said John Holdren, the President Barack Obama's science adviser and
director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Those new plants will be of a new generation and have better safety
characteristics, Holdren told an annual science policy forum that the
American Association for the Advancement of Science held in Washington.

In the past it has taken more than a decade to build a new nuclear power
plant, and Holdren said that future plants should be built more quickly.

"We hope they will be characterized by shorter construction times," he
said. Currently, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission are considering 15
applications for 25 nuclear units, but no companies have committed to building
new plants, citing concerns over licensing and financing. No new nuclear power
plants have been built in more than a decade.

Other issues also stand in the way of building nuclear power plants,
including creation of a national repository for nuclear waste. While one
was planned in Yucca Mountain, Nevada, the Obama administration has slashed
funding for the project, making it unlikely to ever be built.

Holdren reiterated the need for a good approach to managing radioactive
waste in the long term and also said the proliferation of nuclear weapons
technology needs to be addressed in order to promote nuclear energy.

"If nuclear energy is to make a big dent globally, then we are going to
have to be attentive to breaking the linkages between nuclear energy
technology and nuclear weapons technology," Holdren said. "And I think the
administration will be attentive to how we need to do that as well."

--Derek Sands, derek_sands@platts.com

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