Nuclear Energy is Clean and Should Play a Larger Role In Nation's Future: Industry Spokesman

Steve Kerekes, spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, told CNBC’s “Morning Call” that nuclear power should play a bigger part in the nation’s future.

“It certainly is clean,” Kerekes said Wednesday. “We do not describe ourselves as renewable source. Of the (electric) energy sources that we have in the United States…of those that don’t emit greenhouse gases or other pollutants into the atmosphere, fully 70% of that electricity comes from nuclear energy. So, if we’re going to do anything, with regard to clean energy in this country, nuclear energy already is the lion’s share of that supply and needs to continue to have a role.”

There are now 435 now operating nuclear power plants in the United States. Twenty-eight new plants are under construction, 66 are planned or on order and another 158 have been proposed.

Kevin Kamps, a nuclear waste specialist at Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said nuclear energy isn’t clean.

“Nuclear power is certainly not clean and green,” Kamps said. “Uranium mining, to milling to processing to the reactors themselves – and especially to the waste – you have greenhouse gas emissions at various stages of the nuclear fuel chain. Radioactive waste is the actual product of nuclear power. The electricity may be around for a few decades, but the radioactive waste is around for hundreds of thousands of years into the future. It’s certainly not a clean source of electricity like wind or solar.”

Kerekes countered: “I guess you’re going to tell me that windmills grow out of the ground. They have to be fabricated. You have materials like metals and concrete that are involved. In solar cells, you’ve got photovoltaics that (produce) hazardous materials like arsenic (in the manufacturing process). I think you have your blinders on.”