- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Virginia could supply virtually all of its future energy needs from nuclear power and even become a player in the global market to supply power from nuclear sources, according to a new think tank report released Wednesday.

The case for the Old Dominion’s potential nuclear future was outlined in a new analysis from the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, which argued that with the proper investments, Virginia could emerge as the newest contender in the international nuclear power market.

The study’s authors, technology business consultant Robert Hartwell and Donald Hoffman, chairman of the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium Authority, argue that Virginia, one of the most energy-dependent states in the country, would benefit environmentally and economically from a transition to nuclear power.

Virginia is behind only California in its reliance on out-of-state power sources, importing over 50 percent of its current power needs. With a projected 4,000 megawatts of additional power needed by Virginia by 2021, the study suggests that just four new nuclear power plants would do the job better than any other alternatives.

“With continuing controversy surrounding oil, natural gas and coal production, nuclear power is an energy supply that should be, and could be, safely developed to meet much of Virginia’s future electrical power needs,” said Michael W. Thompson, chairman and president of the Thomas Jefferson Institute.

Despite its early promise as a nonpolluting, inexhaustible source of power, the nuclear industry has stalled in the United States and in much of the globe in light of concerns about nuclear waste storage and a series of spectacular safety breakdowns from Chernobyl to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011. A proposed new nuclear power plant in Waynesboro, Georgia, would be the first new U.S. nuclear power plant in decades, analysts say.

The Virginia study backs the idea that nuclear energy is a clean and safe resource that “lessens the impact on climate change due to its almost nonexistent emissions,” citing a 2012 report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The analysts project that 185,000 new jobs would be created and billions of dollars would flood into the economy if the U.S. could supply 25 percent of the world’s nuclear technology, which is estimated to be worth up to $750 billion over the next decade. About 20 percent of power in the U.S. comes from nuclear sources, according to the report.

In 2010 President Obama called on Congress to approve $54 billion in U.S. loan guarantees for nuclear energy production, but his plans were halted a year later after a devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear meltdown in Japan at a power plant in Fukushima, casting doubts over the environmental impact and safety of nuclear energy.

The Jefferson Institute’s study argues that those tragedies were precipitated by cultural factors and regulatory failures, which would be prevented by America’s “strict oversight” of its own nuclear industry.

The report added that “close scrutiny by public advocates, the press and regulators provide us with the highest standard in the world” and one of the safest nuclear industries. And Virginia’s unique business mix would make it uniquely hospitable to a major investment in nuclear power, according to the study.

“In addition to Virginia’s favorable business climate and affirmation of its support for nuclear power via the establishment of the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium in 2013, the sheer number of nuclear operations and nuclear related facilities, engineering schools and federal facilities and critical infrastructure which could benefit from safe and secure nuclear power is breathtaking,” according to the report. “Altogether, nuclear power in Virginia today provides tens of thousands of jobs and over a billion dollars in revenues and economic activity.”

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