Nuclear energy is arguably one of the most viable energy sources that addresses both climate change concerns and future growing demand for electricity. Further, an expanding nuclear power industry in the United States would generate a large number of high-paying jobs in an otherwise weak job market. Given these dynamics, interest in re-invigorating the nuclear power industry is on the increase, with nuclear license applications being submitted for the first time since 1979. In addition, the Obama administration has supported expanding nuclear power capacity, increasing loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors to $54 billion from the $18.5 billion authorized under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Despite this momentum, the oft-mentioned nuclear “renaissance” remains stalled as only one reactor is currently under construction and a number of others are awaiting licensing.
On October 13, the Energy Security Initiative at Brookings hosted Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), who spoke on these and other issues concerning an expansion of the U.S. nuclear power industry and the growth in license applications. Chairman Jaczko, appointed by President Obama in 2009, addressed NRC efforts to strengthen the licensing process and the use of new technologies while still enforcing safety and security requirements.
John Banks, nonresident fellow with the Energy Security Initiative, provided introductory remarks and moderated a brief discussion with the Chairman. After the program, Chairman Jaczko took audience questions.