(CNSNews.com) – A rebirth of nuclear energy would deliver vast economic and environmental benefits to the United States, according to a joint report issued by the liberal Third Way think tank and the conservative Heritage Foundation.
However, because banks will not loan money for them and insurers won’t cover them, nuclear power plants are not cost-effective energy solutions, according to one free-market analyst.
The pro-nuclear energy report, entitled “American Jobs and the Nuclear Renaissance," was conducted by Oxford Economics for Heritage and Third Way.
Adam Sacks, director of Oxford Economics USA, said building 53 new plants in the United States would result in reduced demand for fossil fuels domestically and could save the U.S. up to $9 billion a year in energy imports, most of which would be petroleum imports.
The expansion of nuclear power will create many jobs, many of them high-paying, technical jobs, Sacks says. He spoke at a Capitol Hill briefing on Monday.
More than 30 plants already have been proposed to the federal government’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission by various energy companies, and the Heritage-Third Way study assumes there would be about 20 more forthcoming proposals, according to Matt Bennett, vice president of public affairs at Third Way.
Since the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979, the most significant accident in U.S. nuclear energy history, it has been difficult for nuclear energy producers to obtain permits to build new power plants, Bennett said. Three Mile Island involved a near-meltdown of the reactor at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania.
A libertarian policy analyst, meanwhile, challenges the view that nuclear power is a solution to the energy crisis, arguing that the use of federal dollars to build additional nuclear power plants doesn’t make economic sense.
Jerry Taylor, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told CNSNews.com that the free markets have decided that the risk associated with nuclear power is too great to warrant investment.
“Building new nuclear plants doesn’t make sense at this point,” Taylor said. “If you talk to people in Manhattan in the business of loaning money, nobody is interested in loaning the money for nuclear power. The federal government would have to provide every last dollar and cent for the project. The government would have to underwrite the risk”
“It’s very risky to loan money to nuclear power and nobody will loan it,” said Taylor. “That’s a market verdict that I think ought to be respected.”
Taylor added that insurance companies will not insure nuclear catastrophe either, which he said shows that the risk of such catastrophe is high.
“There is nobody in the insurance business who will underwrite catastrophe,” said Taylor. “If the risk were low they would insure it.”
But Sacks said that as new clean technologies are developed it will become especially important to have clean forms of energy – such as nuclear energy -- available to feed those technologies.
“As automotive technology shifts to plug-ins -- if we don’t invest in nuclear technology and other technology-- that energy is going to come from other sources most of which are going to be coal or fossil fuels,” said Sacks.
Analysts for both The Heritage Foundation and Third Way said that nuclear policy should be a policy that both liberals and conservatives can unite behind.
“We don’t share the idea that nuclear power is too expensive for the U.S. economy to sustain,” Jack Spencer, research fellow of nuclear energy policy at The Heritage Foundation, explained.
“Conservatives and progressives are coming together behind the idea that that the nuclear energy renaissance is important,” Bennett added.
But Taylor called the cost of nuclear power “stunning.” “If nuclear power paid off, loans from the private sector would be happily made,” Taylor told CNSNews.com.