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Memo to the President-Elect (Part 2)

A clear and present need for nuclear energy expansion.

Fortnightly Magazine - December 2008

to a carbon-free energy infrastructure. This will require replacing the vast majority of carbon-based fuels with energy generated by nuclear power, which is the single best base-load energy source for the coming decades.

The five recommendations in this memo—maintain the safe, long-term operability of the existing nuclear fleet; close the fuel cycle; develop and deploy a new generation of improved, grid-appropriate, reactors; invest in necessary infrastructure improvements; and nationalize regulatory oversight—provide a starting point for achieving energy security.

This will not be cheap nor easy. However, this administration is the last, best hope for implementing the necessary steps that can ensure America’s continued security—economic as well as physical—throughout the 21st century.



1.  The Atomic Energy Act established a 40-year initial operating license based upon anti-trust considerations, not engineering limitations. Additional 20-year license extension periods are authorized under the law ( e.g., 10 CFR Part 54). For additional information on the license renewal process, see “ Reactor License Renewal Overview .” 

2.  Engaging with other nations that maintain a civilian nuclear power program will require appropriate collaboration between Federal Agencies ( e.g., NRC, DOE, U.S. Departments of State and Commerce), foreign regulatory agencies, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations ( e.g., Electric Power Research Institute, foreign utilities). 


4.  The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons:

5.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian military bases were so strapped for money that they were unable to pay their utility bills. Local utilities cut power deliveries until payments were made.

6.  Nuclear Energy , U.S. Department of Energy, 2008:

7.  Nations with no existing commercial nuclear power infrastructure that are considering building nuclear power plants include Algeria, Australia, Chile, Estonia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Poland, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arabic Emirates. Nations with existing commercial nuclear power infrastructure that could benefit from additional assistance include Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Lithuania, and Slovenia.

8.  Report GAO/RCED-99-243 , United States General Accounting Office; 1999;

9.  A survey by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) indicates that nearly half of current nuclear-industry workers are more than 47 years old, and that nuclear-energy companies could lose about 40 percent to retirements over the next five years. Also, the architect/engineering firms, fuel suppliers and reactor manufacturers, anticipate that 32 percent of their workers will be eligible to retire within the next three years.

10.  NEI has estimated that some 90,000 entry-level workers are needed to support existing industry operations through the next 10 years. 

11.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintains its responsibility for ensuring the security of the nation’s infrastructure, while the NRC maintains its oversight of security readiness at the nation’s commercial nuclear power plants; therefore, DHS and NRC will continue to closely cooperate to ensure appropriate coordination of security measures at these nuclear facilities.