WASHINGTON - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has received 17 applications to build 26 new U.S. nuclear reactors and could get five more applications for seven reactors by the end of next year, the agency's chairman told Congress on Wednesday.
"We are actively reviewing those applications as we speak," NRC Chairman Dale Klein told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at a hearing on the state of the U.S. nuclear industry.
The industry sees building more nuclear power plants as key to meeting America's growing electricity demand and also helping the United States reduce its greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
Unlike nuclear reactors, power plants fueled by coal are among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Obama administration wants to implement a plan to cut America's greenhouse gas emissions, but at the same time it opposes opening the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site in Nevada.
The industry claims utilities would be reluctant to build additional reactors if there is not a central depository to store spent nuclear fuel.
Klein said it will take the NRC about 42 months to review and make a decision on whether to approve a reactor application. The agency received its first applications for new reactors in 2006.
The current 104 operating U.S. nuclear reactors generate about 20 percent of the country's electricity supplies.
(Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Marguerita Choy)