Sen. Udall introduces bill to authorize federal research of small-scale nuclear reactors

Udall thinks nuclear power should be an important part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate global climate change

 - Edited by April Murelio -

According to a report in the examiner, Colorado's senior U.S. senator has proposed a bill that would give the federal government authority to research whether small-scale, modular nuclear reactors are a feasible contributor to the nation's energy supply.

Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat elected to the Senate in 2008, said in a speech at the U.S. capitol that he thinks nuclear power should be an important part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lessen global climate change.

"Given the economic, national security, and environmental threats that our current energy system creates, we need a comprehensive and cleaner energy policy," Udall said. "In this regard, nuclear energy clearly has emerged as an important player in our search for a stable and domestic energy source that has less greenhouse gas emissions."

Udall, who is the son of the late Arizona congressman Morris K. Udall and a nephew of former secretary of the interior Stewart Udall, is considered an ally of environmentalist organizations and has been a leader of efforts to expand the use of renewable energy sources such as the sun, wind and biomass.

Still, the veteran legislator, who was first elected to Congress in 1998, thinks the time is right to re-think the role nuclear power can play in the country's energy portfolio.

During his speech Udall lauded the improvements in nuclear power industry's overall safety record during the past several decades and pointed out that generation of electricity by means of nuclear fission does not pollute the air.

He also argued that questions over storage of low-level radioactive waste produced by atomic power stations should not prevent greater reliance on nuclear energy.

"I am confident that we have the technical capabilities and knowledge to safely and responsibly store nuclear waste for the required time periods," Udall added.

Udall's legilsation which is labeled the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Improvement Act of 2009, is co-sponsored by Senate energy and natural resources committee chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, and the ranking Republican member of that committee, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

In addition to authorizing the government to research whether small-scale nuclear power plants are a technically feasible source of electricity, the measure asks for an assessment of the economic implications of such a strategy for producing power.

While ,nuclear power plants now provide about twenty percent of the electricity generated in the United States, no new nuclear power plant has been ordered since 1978.

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