Nuclear Energy Will Remain An Essential Energy Source, Says Obama

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President Obama pauses during his speech on America’s energy security, delivered at Georgetown University in Washington Wednesday, March 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Washington ( – Despite the nuclear crisis in Japan, nuclear energy will remain a safe and important source of electricity in the U.S., President Obama said on Wednesday.

“America gets one-fifth of our electricity from nuclear energy,” the president said in a speech at Georgetown University. “It has important potential for increasing our electricity without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. But I’m determined to ensure that it’s safe.”

Obama said he has directed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to conduct a thorough review of the 104 reactors in use throughout the U.S.

On March 15, Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a congressional panel that “the American people should have full confidence that the United States has rigorous safety regulations in place to ensure that our nuclear power is generated safely and responsibly.”

Nevertheless, on the same day, the president acknowledged there were risks associated with nuclear power, telling CBS television, “Nothing is completely failsafe, nothing is completely foolproof.”

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The Alvin W.Vogtle nuclear power plant in Burke County, Georgia. (Photo: NRC/Southern Nuclear)

Radiation leaks from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster, raised concerns in the U.S. and elsewhere over whether benefits of nuclear energy outweigh safety risks.

In his speech Wednesday, the president called for a 10-year plan to reduce the amount of oil imported into the U.S. by one-third.

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“When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day,” he said. “By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third.”

To accomplish that goal, Obama proposed increasing the production of electric cars, having trucks run on natural gas, erecting new biofuel refineries, and establishing new fuel-efficiency standards for cars – ideas the U.S. Congress has been wrangling over for years.

“The only way for America’s energy supply to be truly secure is by permanently reducing our dependence on oil,” he said. “We’re going to have to find ways to boost our efficiency so that we use less oil. We’ve got to discover and produce cleaner, renewable sources of energy that also produce less carbon pollution that is threatening our climate. And we have to do it quickly.”

“We cannot keep going from shock when gas prices go up, to trance when gas prices go back down,” Obama added. “We can’t rush to propose action when prices are high then push the snooze button when they go down again. We can’t keep doing that. The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity and security on a resource that will eventually run out.”

Obama noted that the U.S. consumes 25 percent of the oil produced in the world while possessing only two percent of global reserves.

He denied accusations by members of Congress and oil industry officials that his administration is blocking offshore oil and gas production.

“Any claim that my administration is responsible for gas prices because we’ve ‘shut down’ oil production – any claim like that is simply untrue,” he said. “It might make for a useful political sound bite, but it doesn’t track with reality.”

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