Idaho Falls Post-Register
Monday March 26, 2007
Idaho’s next nuclear opportunity
Mike Simpson, U.S. congressman

Washington, D.C. — I want to take this opportunity to express my strong support for the Department of Energy’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and explain some of the benefits of this exciting new effort.

First and foremost, if our nation is to maintain its standard of living, grow its economy and at the same time curb greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, it has no other choice but to embark on a sustained effort to expand the use of nuclear power.

The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership promises to facilitate our nation’s expansion of nuclear power by looking to policies abandoned long ago in the United States but embraced for decades overseas.

I have long believed that we should apply to nuclear power the same conservation ethic we apply to aluminum, glass, paper and other re-usable materials. Nuclear fuel retains roughly 95 percent of its usable energy after its first pass through a nuclear reactor. Burying these barely used fuel rods, and their massive energy potential, in Yucca Mountain is the functional equivalent to putting gold back into the mine.

Through GNEP, we can recover usable energy, minimize the amount of long-lived high-level waste requiring repository disposal and separate out short-lived fission products for disposal as low-level waste. GNEP will afford us the ability to incorporate transuranic elements that we now plan to dispose of as waste in a repository into a new, recycled fuel source and burn it all in a fast reactor.

As enthused as I am about the national impact of GNEP, I am even more excited about the positive impact it will have on Idaho and its federally owned nuclear laboratory. Home to more nuclear reactors than any other site in our nation’s history, Idaho National Laboratory is prepared to lead on
all three major components of GNEP.

INL has the history, facilities and expertise to lead this effort for our nation. It has the strong local, regional, statewide and federal support required to tackle some of the complex challenges that will face any proposal to host GNEP facilities.

To be sure, GNEP will have its detractors. It will have its naysayers. It will have its challenges and setbacks. But if there is to be any hope that we will one day build something more than one or two new nuclear reactors in our nation, then GNEP, or something very similar to it, must be undertaken.

Our only other options are to forgo nuclear energy altogether or site, fund and build several more permanent geologic repositories where we would bury even more energy gold.

We must not let this opportunity for a nuclear renaissance pass us by.

Simpson, R-Idaho, is serving his fifth term in the House of Representatives. You can write to him at 1339 Longworth House Office Building.