McCain wants 100 n-plants in US, cites India, China, Russia

June 20th, 2008 - 12:30 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 20 (IANS) Citing India, China and Russia as examples, Republican presidential nominee John McCain wants to revive America’s own nuclear programme by building 100 new plants to solve its growing energy problem. Making a strong case for nuclear energy, at a town-hall-style meeting at Missouri State University Thursday, McCain said that he saw nuclear power as a clean, safe alternative to traditional sources of energy that emit greenhouse gases.

Calling his plan to build 45 new nuclear reactors in the US by 2030, with the ultimate goal of reaching 100, a task “as difficult as it is necessary”, he contrasted his stand on nuclear energy with that of his Democratic rival Barack Obama.

“Senator Obama says, ‘I am not a nuclear energy proponent.’ I think that makes him a nuclear energy opponent, though he does have a knack for nuance and it’s not entirely clear,” said McCain who has long promoted nuclear reactors.

“In any case, I am a proponent of this clean, safe, and efficient source of energy,” said McCain.

Currently there are 104 reactors in the country supplying some 20 percent of electricity consumed. No new nuclear power plant has been built in the US since the 1970s.

“Every year, these reactors alone spare the atmosphere from the equivalent of nearly all auto emissions in America. Yet for all these benefits, we have not broken ground on a single nuclear plant in over thirty years.

“And our manufacturing base to even construct these plants is almost gone,” said McCain, noting “China, Russia, and India are all planning to build more than a hundred new power plants among them in the coming decades.

“Across Europe there are 197 reactors in operation, and nations including France and Belgium derive more than half their electricity from nuclear power. And if all of these nations can find a way to carry out great goals in energy policy, then I assure you that the United States is more than equal to the challenge.”

Although there has been a shift of opinion in the industry and among some environmentalists toward more nuclear power - it is clean and far safer than at the time of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979 - most environmentalists are sceptical of the latest claims by its advocates, the New York Times said.

They also say that no utility will put its own financing into building a plant unless the federal government lavishly subsidises it, the influential daily said commenting on the McCain plan.

“Wall Street won’t invest in these plants because they are too expensive and unreliable, so Senator McCain wants to shower the nuclear industry with billions of dollars of taxpayer handouts,” it cited Daniel J. Weiss, who heads the global warming programme at the Centre for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal research group, as saying.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain’s chief domestic policy adviser, said McCain had arrived at the goal of 45 as consistent with his desire to expand nuclear power, “but not so large as to be infeasible given permitting and construction times”.

“One obstacle to expanding our nuclear-powered electricity is the mindset of those who prefer to buy time and hope that our energy problems will somehow solve themselves,” said the Republican candidate.

“It has a lot more to do with the politics of matter than with the merits. And you can observe this approach even in the case of the senator from the state with more nuclear power plants than any other,” he said in another indirect dig at Obama, who represents Illinois.

“So, if I am elected president, I will set this nation on a course to building 45 new reactors by the year 2030, with the ultimate goal of 100 new plants to power the homes and factories and cities of America,” McCain said.

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