US should follow France, boost nuclear power

18th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

The United States should consider following France's lead and ramping up use of nuclear power in an effort to contain global warming, a senior US senator helping craft climate change legislation said Tuesday.

WASHINGTON - Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is working with Democrat John Kerry on the bill, highlighted how France now derives 80 percent of its energy from nuclear power and is presently constructing a next-generation reactor, said to be the most advanced in the world.

"Surely we can be as bold as the French," Graham told reporters.

Asked about the nuclear waste that has been at the core of some resistance to expanding nuclear reactors in the United States, Graham said he addressed the issue with US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, a former Nobel laureate in physics who the senator described as "pro-nuclear."

"The waste problem is a problem and any bill has to deal with it," Graham said, but he added that Chu indicated that in the next decade there could be a "leap in technology" that would allow US reactors to recycle more nuclear waste than the French.

Graham is seen as a climate change powerbroker in the US Senate as it has struggled to hash out a law ahead of next month's landmark UN climate summit in Copenhagen, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday dashed hopes of a breakthrough this year and said the chamber would act in early 2010 on the legislation.

Graham praised the French system as "a very good model" and said he felt the country's next-generation plant, known as the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), was safe but appeared to advocate a step-by-step approach to growing the industry.

"At the end of the day you've got to realize that nuclear power has been proven safe, but don't go too far too fast," he said.

China and Finland are already building French-designed new generation reactors, and talks are underway to export the EPR model to Britain, India, Abu Dhabi and the United States.

In an opinion piece last month in The New York Times, Graham and Kerry jointly wrote that "while we invest in renewable energy sources like wind and solar, we must also take advantage of nuclear power, our single largest contributor of emissions-free power."

Nuclear power comprises 20 percent of US electricity output, and while no new plants have come on line for 30 years, it is seen as one of the solutions to reducing carbon gas emissions and reducing US dependence on foreign oil.


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