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Blue Ribbon Commission on Nuclear Power Arrives

By Mark Flanagan

 And that’s what they’re calling it: The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. Announced today during a telephone conference with Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Presidential Advisor Carol Browner, the commission’s charge is to provide recommendations for developing a safe, long-term solution to managing the nation’s used nuclear fuel.

The commission will be headed by former House member Lee Hamilton (D-Indiana) and former National Security Advisor (to Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush) Brent Scowcroft. These men volunteer to chair the commission and show considerable devotion to public service in doing so.

The remaining 13 commission members include:

-- Mark Ayers, President, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO
-- Vicky Bailey, Former Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Former IN PUC Commissioner; Former Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs
-- Albert Carnesale, Chancellor Emeritus and Professor, UCLA
-- Pete V. Domenici, Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center; former U.S. Senator (R-NM)
-- Susan Eisenhower, President, Eisenhower Group
-- Chuck Hagel, Former U.S. Senator (R-NE)
-- Jonathan Lash, President, World Resources Institute
-- Allison Macfarlane, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University
-- Dick Meserve, Former Chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Commission
-- Ernie Moniz, Professor of Physics and Cecil & Ida Green Distinguished Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
-- Per Peterson, Professor and Chair, Department of Nuclear Engineering, University of California - Berkeley
-- John Rowe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Exelon Corporation
-- Phil Sharp, President, Resources for the Future

As you can see, this is an exceptionally well-chosen group, with various political, scientific and industrial constituencies included.

Here are some interesting tidbits:

Yucca Mountain will not be considered an option. For all intents and purposes, it’s dead.

Why not Yucca Mountain? Because, said Chu, “science has advanced dramatically” in the 20 years since Yucca Mountain was chosen and a better, safer solution is preferable and now possible.

Chu made it clear, though, that this is not a siting commission – that is, if it settles around the idea of a repository, it won’t suggest where it might be located – and of course a repository may not be one of the recommendations.

The commission is charged with delivering an interim report in 18 months and a final report in two years. The chairmen said they’d like to finish sooner.

Chu does not consider the focus on nuclear energy in President Obama’s State of the Union or the founding of the commission to represent a “betrayal” of environmentalists who supported the President’s election (nor should he – Obama was muted but definite during the election that he supported nuclear energy.)

Chu noted that nuclear energy is baseload, carbon emission free energy and, compared to fusion, for example, is well understood now.

You can see the Presidential memo ordering this commission here.

We’ll have lots more to say about this in the days and weeks ahead, but we thought you’d want the initial news quickly. As they say in the trade, breaking…

Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton.


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