U.S. must increase nuclear power-Energy Minister

LONDON, Sept 4 Thu Sep 4, 2008 12:10pm BST

LONDON, Sept 4 (Reuters) - The United States needs to start generating more of its power from nuclear energy, but will still have to rely on coal and oil for the foreseeable future, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy said on Thursday.

Dennis Spurgeon told a nuclear energy industry conference in London that the era of cheap oil was over and action was needed to tackle an "energy crisis" facing the United States.

The country was "on the cusp of a transformation" in the way it produces energy and the time to start reducing its dependence on fossil fuels was coming, Spurgeon told the opening session of the World Nuclear Association's annual symposium.

Spurgeon said there was no country more addicted to the use of fossil fuels than the U.S., and Washington had been "somewhat slow" to react to the need for change.

The U.S. Government had hesitated to talk about a renaissance of nuclear power in the United States until construction of new nuclear plants was under way.

"I have confidence that that day may not be too far off," Spurgeon said.

Spurgeon said the U.S. need to generate energy from low carbon sources was rising in the face of increases in fossil fuel costs, global warming and the need to avoid becoming dependent on single energy sources.

He said the United States would need to build nine new nuclear plants a year from 2016 to generate 50 percent of its power from nuclear by 2035.

"That's possible if adequate capital is available," he said. Washington would take a principled approach and recognised that new nuclear plants could not be built without government support and substantial legislation.

Spurgeon said, however, that it would be unrealistic to expect that electricity generated from such sources would be able completely to replace the use of fossil fuels.

"We will need to rely on coal and oil resources for as far as the eye can see," he said. (Reporting by Philip Waller; editing by James Jukwey)

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