Resending for all needing Energy Secretary Says President To Set Up Cabinet-Level Study
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Reagan has agreed to set up a Cabinet-level look at the future of nuclear power in light of 114 plant cancellations and no order for new reactors in the past seven years, Energy Secretary John Herrington said Wednesday.
″The hard truth is that the public’s perception of nuclear power is not good ... and perception in a political climate often becomes reality,″ Herrington told the Nuclear Power Assembly, an organization of utility and nuclear industry executives.
″To the best of my knowledge, no utility company, public or private, is even considering the nuclear option for future generation needs,″ he said. ″If government is part of the problem, then it is the (Reagan) administration’s policy to make government a part of the solution.″
After his address, Herrington refused to take questions on the nature of the Cabinet-level review.
But aides said it stops short of meeting requests by the industry and Wall Street investment bankers for a higher-status presidential commission to look at nuclear power’s problems.
″He wants to brief the Cabinet on the state of the industry, that’s about it,″ said Dan Butler, an Energy Department spokesman. ″There’s some talk about the possibility of the secretary-appointed council like the National Coal Council, but I don’t know whether that’s going to go anywhere.″
Herrington blamed the lack of public acceptance of nuclear power on the 1979 Three Mile Island plant accident in Pennsylvania, skyrocketing construction costs, higher electric rates resulting from some plants and actress Jane Fonda.
″In short,″ he said, ″many consumers perceive that nuclear power is unsafe, unworkable and too expensive. That is the perception facing the nuclear industry and public policy makers ... thanks to Hanoi Jane,″ a reference to Miss Fonda’s visit to Hanoi during the Vietnam War and her role in the anti-nuclear power movie, ″The China Syndrome.″
However, Herrington said the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is more to blame than anti-nuclear activists for eroding the public’s acceptance of atomic power.
″Unfortunately, federal regulation has probably been more responsible for undermining confidence in nuclear power than have avowed nuclear opponents,″ he said. ″In decision after decision, the government has delayed plant construction and sent the price of nuclear power soaring.″
NRC Chairman Nunzio Palladino, asked about Herrington’s remarks, disagreed.
″I believe we are fulfilling our mission to protect public health and safety,″ Palladino said. ″That is the most important thing we can do to enhance public confidence in nuclear power.″
Herrington also chastised the nuclear industry for its problems.
″I know you’re spending $20 million on advertising,″ he said. ″But how many more times do we have to read stories that 12 out of 17 licensed operators at one utility failed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s requalification exam before the industry takes strong dramatic steps at corrective action.″
Herrington endorsed a proposal by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., for a National Nuclear Training Center, but said the $1 billion facility should be sponsored by industry rather than the government.
Utilities and reactor manufacturers have opposed a national center, contending that there are 40 varieties of nuclear plants in operation and that operators can be better trained on the specific system that they will be using.
He pledged administration support in opening foreign markets for the sale of U.S.-manufactured reactors.