Nuclear Energy Expert: US Gov't 'Too Involved' in Industry

A nuclear energy expert believes that the U.S. government is "too involved" in the nuclear energy business and that there needs to be more "free market" in the industry.

Jack Spencer, research fellow of nuclear energy policy at the Heritage Foundation, told The Christian Post, "I am not a big fan of current federal policy on nuclear energy. I think that the government is too involved with nuclear energy issues."

"I think the government should stick to setting high regulatory standards and then allow the industry to go about the business of producing energy."

Spencer felt that a greater presence of free market in nuclear energy issues would help the industry, as previous deregulations have done.

"Since we deregulated energy markets in the 90s, that was what really propelled a lot of efficiency within the nuclear industry," said Spencer.

"If the market is allowed to work, nuclear power should be able to compete and through that process, the competition, I believe nuclear energy will expand."

Spencer's remarks come as a documentary, "Powering America," is set to be broadcasted on the Documentary Channel on March 11. The documentary, which was produced by the conservative organization Heritage Foundation, argues that nuclear power is safe and would be the best alternative to natural gas as the United States' energy demands continue to increase.

Anti-Nuclear Propaganda

Both Spencer and the documentary argue that for years Americans have been presented with an unfair portrayal of the safety of nuclear power plants.

"Well I think that the American public was subjected to decades of anti-nuclear propaganda," said Spencer to CP.

"It was rooted in the anti-nuclear movement that was more about bombs than energy, but certainly it carried over to the energy world."

Spencer as well as those interviewed for "Powering America" argue that incidents such as Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and the recent Fukushima crisis have mixed with entertainment imagery of plants melting down and releasing large amounts of dangerous chemicals.

"Then you had things like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island and we never really fully recovered from that despite having literally decades of operational experience that demonstrated that nuclear power is very clean and very safe," said Spencer.

According him, these incidents have led to better safety measures and development of a strong "safety culture." Regarding Fukushima, Spencer felt that the story of the Fukushima meltdown could be handled in two ways.

"Do we use that experience to try to denigrate the value of nuclear power moving forward or do we look at it for what it was, which was an accident…and learn from it?" Spencer asked.

Safety Culture

In "Powering America," those interviewed argue that the "safety culture" of nuclear power plants in America make them a safe and efficient source of energy.

Spencer concurs, saying that the "safety culture" of American plants is "extraordinarily strong."

"I think that if you look at the American nuclear power we had a number of experiences that have really formed our 'safety culture' here in the U.S.," he said.

The nuclear power expert noted that past events like the Three Mile Island accident and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks both resulted in increased safety regulations.

"It was those two experiences that really have given us the strong footing we have today in nuclear energy that I think would have allow us to handle a Fukushima-like situation far differently," said Spencer.