Philadelphia Inquirer
June 23, 2005


By Ron Hutcheson

LUSBY, Md. -- President Bush delivered a pitch for commercial nuclear
power yesterday, telling a group of nuclear-industry workers that
"it's time for this country to start building nuclear power plants

Bush traveled to the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland,
about 55 miles from Washington, to push for Senate approval of an
energy bill that includes help for the nuclear industry. Bush said
nuclear power could play a big role in easing the nation's dependence
on foreign fuels.

The Senate is expected to approve the measure by tomorrow.

Nuclear power fell out favor more than 20 years ago because of cost
and safety concerns, but it is getting a second look as an alternative
to fossil fuels that have been linked to global warming. Nuclear
plants generate electricity without emitting pollutants, although they
create radioactive waste.

Bush's visit was the first presidential trip to a nuclear generator
since President Jimmy Carter toured Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania
after it suffered a partial meltdown in 1979. The Pennsylvania
incident and a far more serious accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine, in
1986, fed public fears of a nuclear catastrophe. At least 30 people
died immediately after the Chernobyl accident, and survivors have had
to deal with abnormally high rates of thyroid cancer.

Bush and other advocates of nuclear power say improved technology has
significantly reduced the risk of a radioactive problem.

"Some Americans remember the problems that the nuclear plants had back
in the 1970s," Bush said. "That frightened a lot of folks. People have
got to understand that advances in science and engineering and plant
design have made nuclear plants far safer."

Skeptics point to other issues, including the high cost of building
nuclear plants. Regulatory hurdles make investors leery of pouring
money into expensive nuclear facilities. Security concerns in the age
of terrorism and dealing with used fuel rods that remain radioactive
for centuries present other obstacles.

Nuclear power provides about 20 percent of the nation's electric
energy, but no new plants have been ordered since the 1970s. Bush
noted that France has built 58 nuclear plants in the same period,
while China has eight plants under construction.

Bush already has taken steps to help the domestic nuclear industry. A
$1.1 billion government-industry partnership launched three years ago
is working toward the construction of a state-of-the-art nuclear
generator. The Calvert Cliffs plant, which operates two generators, is
competing for the chance to operate the new one.

The energy legislation under debate in the Senate this week would
offer more financial incentives for new nuclear plants. The bill
includes tax breaks, loan guarantees, and federal liability protection
for new reactors. It also would authorize $1.3 billion for cutting-
edge nuclear-hydrogen projects.

The Senate version differs from a House-passed package that is more in
line with Bush's overall energy strategy. A bitter disagreement over
Bush's plan to permit energy production in the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge -- omitted from the Senate bill, but included in the
House's -- and other disputes could scuttle the package.

Besides promoting nuclear power, Bush sought to increase pressure on
Congress to accept his energy policy. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D., Md.), an
advocate of nuclear power, welcomed Bush's visit to the Maryland plant
but said Bush's energy plan did not do enough to promote alternatives
to fossil fuels.

The President acknowledged that his proposal would have no short-term
effect on gasoline prices.

"I recognize, and I hope you recognize, that when I sign that bill,
your gasoline prices aren't going to drop," Bush told about 1,000
plant workers and invited guests. "But by addressing it now, we're
going to be able to say life's going to be better for our children and

Contact reporter Ron Hutcheson at

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