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Public Policy Agenda - Great Lakes Metro Chamber Coalition

Clean coal & nuclear energy policies

Establish federal policies that encourage the development of advanced energy with a focus on clean coal and advanced nuclear technology. As the nation strives to lessen reliance on foreign oil and reduce our carbon footprint, it is imperative that public policies support investment in advanced energy research, development and commercialization. While much focus has been on wind, solar, biomass and fuel cells, all of which are important, it is also imperative that public policy embrace clean coal and nuclear technology. Together, coal and nuclear energy provide almost 70 percent of our energy supply. The availability of reliable, abundant and affordable energy is vital to our economic growth; a great deal of our economic recovery will depend on the availability of affordable energy.

The U.S. Department of Energy projects that electricity demand will rise 28 percent by 2035. This means that our nation will need hundreds of new power plants to provide electricity to homes and industry. Clean coal and nuclear will be an important part of the solution. For example, maintaining nuclear energy’s current 20 percent share of generation would require building about one nuclear reactor per year starting in 2016. The abundance of coal in the Great Lakes states and the existing industry base make this region particularly well suited to federal investment in both clean coal and nuclear energy.

Specifically:

The Federal Government should continue the Clean Coal Power Initiative (CCPI) which provides government co-financing for new coal technologies that can help utilities cut sulfur, nitrogen and mercury pollutants from power plants. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) added $800 Million in new funding for this program.

The Federal Government should also continue and expand its public-private partnerships through the Department of Energy. One of these public-private partnerships will be located in Mattoon, Illinois. The project’s name is FutureGen and it will design, build, and operate the world’s first coal-fueled, near-zero emissions power plant. The plant will establish the technical and economic feasibility of producing electricity from coal while capturing and sequestering the carbon dioxide generated in the process.

In addition to focusing on economically feasible future clean coal power plants, the Federal Government should continue and expand its current Innovations for Existing Power Plants Program. The goal of this program is to develop technologies for existing power plants that will capture up to 90% of carbon emissions.

In 2002 the Department of Energy started its Nuclear Power 2010 program (NP2010), which is a government/industry 50-50 cost-shared program to identify sites for new nuclear power plants, develop and bring to market advanced nuclear plant technologies, evaluate the business case for building new nuclear power plants and demonstrate untested regulatory processes. This program resulted in many recommendations to streamline regulatory processes, such as the early site permit and the combined construction and operating license. Recommendations such as these will stimulate the utility sector to consider nuclear power plants and should be implemented.

Unfortunately, no new construction permits have been issued for US commercial nuclear power plants since the 1970s, however, the current Administration has provided conditional commitments for loan guarantees for two nuclear power operators to add three to four new nuclear reactors.

The Federal Government should increase its commitment to Nuclear and Clean Coal Energy Investment by:

  • Creating a “Clean Energy Investment Fund” which would focus on supporting the development and deployment technologies that are deemed “commercially risky”
  • Increasing incentives for commercial investment into clean coal and carbon sequestration technologies
  • Increasing the authorization levels for Department of Energy R&D programs
  • Providing guaranteed loans to major energy plant construction projects
  • Publicly acknowledging its commitment to the development of Clean Coal Technologies, and the benefit of utilizing American’s cheapest and most abundant energy source
  • Providing a commitment to Nuclear Power through loan guarantees, and also research into alternative waste storage and disposal techniques