Counterpoint: Nuclear energy a bright spot 

Tremendous potential exists for rebuilding the U.S. economy on green jobs, particularly as energy companies gear up to meet rising electricity demand. Nuclear energy is one of the few bright spots in the U.S. economy " expanding rather than contracting.

That's due to a growing consensus that any credible program to address climate change while providing secure electricity supply must include carbonfree technologies like nuclear energy.

Here in Oklahoma in 2007, the state Corporation Commission and the House Energy Committee began the first serious discussions in 30 years on building a nuclear plant. Oklahoma will need safe and reliable sources of affordable electricity to supply ever growing electricity needs, and reliable, zero-carbon nuclear energy is a viable option to diversify the state's growing portfolio of wind and natural gas generation.

Nationwide, 104 reactors already produce about 20 percent of U.S. electricity. On average, they are the most reliable and efficient power plants and have lower electricity production costs than power plants that use coal, natural gas or oil.

Energy companies, mainly in the Sunbelt, have filed federal permits to build up to 26 nuclear plants. Recognizing this increased emphasis on nuclear energy to meet future power needs, reactor designers and manufacturers are expanding engineering centers and manufacturing facilities as well as their payrolls. These advanced reactor designs will have multiple state-of-the-art safety systems.

Green job growth has already begun in North Carolina, Tennessee and Pennsylvania and will spread to Virginia, Louisiana and other states in the coming months. Companies like Westinghouse, General  Electric and Northrop Grumman have in the last three years hired 15,000 employees and invested $4 billion in developing new nuclear manufacturing and business operations.

Electricity demand in Oklahoma and across the nation is forecasted to increase by 21 percent by 2030, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That will require up to $2 trillion in new electric generation and distribution technology.

In 2008 alone, electricity use in Oklahoma increased 16 percent over 2007, the fourth largest increase of any state, according to EIA. An abundant supply of electricity is critical to preserving and advancing our quality of life, standard of living and to take control of our energy supply.

Nuclear power plants in 31 states provide electricity to 80 million homes. It's time for Oklahoma to fully consider the only large-scale source of carbonfree electricity as part of its energy future.

Peterson is vice president at the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington, D.C.

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Scott Peterson

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