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Published: Thursday, 2/15/2007

Industry group backs more nuke plants

Engler Engler

DTE Energy's interest in building the Midwest's first new nuclear plant in years appears to be supported by former Michigan Gov. John Engler and a Washington lobbyist group that represents the nation's largest manufacturers.

In a report yesterday, the National Association of Manufacturers called for more nuclear power nationwide.

Manufacturing is the nation's largest energy user and an important part of the economy in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

DTE, Detroit Edison's parent, on Monday announced plans to seek a license to build another nuclear plant at its Fermi nuclear complex in northern Monroe County.

Mr. Engler is the manufacturing association's president and chief executive officer. Nine months ago, he made his first pitch for nuclear power on behalf of the industry group at the Nuclear Energy Institute's annual conference in San Francisco.

Nuclear was not the sole focus of his group's new report. But a white paper accompanying it called for:

•More ways to facilitate nuclear growth than what President Bush has under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

•More interim storage of spent nuclear fuel, rather than waiting for Nevada's Yucca Mountain to open as the national dump.

•More streamlining of new license applications by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

•Some $100 million for expanding university nuclear physics programs and $500 million a year for developing advanced fuel cycles and in trying to reprocess nuclear fuel. Reprocessing has been banned in the United States since President Gerald Ford's administration.

"One of the keys to diversifying America's energy portfolio is to increase America's capacity to produce home-grown nuclear energy," the white paper said. It called upon the United States to "develop a pro-nuclear growth agenda."

The manufacturers' association gave several other ideas for making the country more energy independent, from clean coal to renewable energy. It suggested a campaign to elevate the "energy intelligence" of Americans.

DTE expects to spend $30 million to prepare its license application for the plant. The utility pegs the cost of the plant at $3 billion.

The Fermi site, 30 miles north of Toledo, houses the Fermi 2 reactor that went online in 1985. Its operating license, good through 2025, could be extended by 20 years.

The NRC has not received an application to build a new nuclear plant for more than 30 years because of cost overruns, post-Three Mile Island regulations, and uncertainty over where to bury radioactive waste the plants generate.

Some 16 utilities, mostly in the South, are discussing the possibility of building more than 30 plants.

The NRC expects to start reviewing the first four to five license applications in the fall.

Contact Tom Henry at:


or 419-724-6079.

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