Nuclear power is one of the answers to the nation's long-term energy security challenges.
That's according to U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, in a Wednesday hearing on Capitol Hill. In a hearing that explored the future of nuclear energy and funding for nuclear research and development, Simpson championed the role of the Idaho National Laboratory in the nation's energy future.
Simpson, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, questioned the Department of Energy's assistant secretary for nuclear energy, Dennis Spurgeon, about the importance of nuclear energy and the Department of Energy's new initiative called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.
Simpson focused his initial remarks on his support for the Bush administration's fiscal year 2008 budget request for nuclear energy of nearly $875 million.
"It is important that we all recognize the significant contributions the Bush administration and the current Department of Energy leadership are making to the future of nuclear energy in out nation," Simpson said. "Eight years ago, the nuclear energy research budget in our nation was essentially eliminated by the Clinton administration. Today, the Bush administration is proposing a 2008 budget just shy of $1 billion."
Simpson said that is a dramatic turn around for nuclear energy and regardless of individual priorities lawmakers should appreciate the advances they have made in overall nuclear research funding.
The revitalization of aging infrastructure at the Idaho National Laboratory was another area of focus for Simpson's comments and questions.
"I am very glad that the Department of Energy recognizes the need to revitalize Idaho National Laboratory's infrastructure and that Assistant Secretary Spurgeon has already committed $15 million to the effort," Simpson said. "Now I want to see new buildings rising in place of the old buildings that are now being torn down. Idaho National Laboratory has a bright future."
Simpson said the challenge of meeting growing energy demand without increasing greenhouse gas emissions dictates that nuclear energy must be at the forefront of the nation's energy expansion from this point forward.
"For that reason, I am bullish about the future of nuclear energy and the future of the Idaho National Laboratory," he said.