The nuclear power convention sported the bold slogan "A Flourishing Renaissance," and Vice President Cheney went before the reactor executives yesterday to accept their adulation and underline the administration's enthusiasm for nuclear power.
The energy policy President Bush released last week includes promises to speed up relicensing for safe and efficient nuclear reactors and take a number of other steps to encourage production of nuclear power. The report refers to it as a "clean and unlimited source of energy."
Vice President Cheney was greeted by two standing ovations at Tuesday's Nuclear Energy Institute's annual conference in Washington Tuesday, May 22, 2001. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
Cheney was the policy's architect, and was greeted by two standing ovations from the crowd of 375 at the Nuclear Energy Assembly. The annual conference is sponsored at a Washington hotel by the industry's major trade group, the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Cheney said the nuclear industry is allowing electricity to be generated "efficiently, safely, with no discharge of the greenhouse gases or emissions."
"We want, as a matter of national policy, to encourage continued advancements in this industry -- improved safety and efficiency in nuclear plants, safe disposal of nuclear waste and perhaps even technology that reduces the amount of toxicity of waste going forward," he said.
The vice president said Bush "recognizes that these are difficult and challenging issues, and there's been plenty of controversy over the years."
The nuclear executives seemed in a buoyant mood, after enduring 20 years of mainly hostile public attention. Conference organizers handed out Super Balls that glow in the dark. The warm-up speaker for Cheney, Thomas J. Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, "Up until the last few months, it was not polite to talk about nuclear energy."
Cheney and his task force changed all that. John R. McGaha, president of Entergy Operations Inc., which operates five nuclear plants in the Southeast, said Bush and Cheney have shown themselves to be "leaders, not politicians."
Perhaps chastened by the response to remarks last month that were widely seen as being dismissive of conservation, Cheney said more of the recommendations from Bush's energy task force "are devoted to conservation and renewables than are devoted to increased supplies."
Cheney asked the executives to support the administration's "reasonable policies" on energy.
"There's a lot of talk from some of our critics that somehow it's only focused, for example, on additional supplies of energy -- that we didn't look adequately at conservation or renewables," he said. "That's simply not true. I would say anybody who says that hasn't read the report."
However, Cheney did not back away from the administration's contention that massive new production infrastructure should be built.
He said Bush's policy assumes "very significant" savings from conservation and increased use of renewable energy sources such as sun and wind, but said they will not be enough to meet the nation's energy needs.
"That means," Cheney said, "it's going to be coal-fired, it's going to be gas-fired or it's going to come from nuclear power."
© 2001 The Washington Post Company