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‘Clean Energy’ Standard Should Be Considered by U.S., Chu Says

U.S. lawmakers should consider a “clean-energy” standard that includes nuclear power, and aim to require that half the nation’s electricity be generated from such sources by 2050, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said.

The standard, which would force power companies to buy a minimum percentage of electricity from low-pollution sources, is a “potential policy the administration and Congress should discuss,” Chu said today at a nuclear-energy forum in Washington. “I think 50 percent by 2050 is about right.”

Nuclear-power facilities would have benefited under a proposed cap-and-trade law, in which power plants would pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, Chu said. After a cap-and-trade plan backed by President Barack Obama failed to pass Congress, a clean-energy standard would make new nuclear reactors “look like a good investment,” he said.

“If there’s not going to be a price on carbon that the industry can bank on in the near-term future, look at the other mechanisms that are available to guarantee that if someone builds a nuclear power plant they can sell the power,” Chu said. An interim clean-power target of 25 percent by 2025 should also be set, he said.

Democrats such as Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico have proposed a national renewable-electricity standard that would require utilities to buy more power from sources such as wind farms and solar arrays.

Republicans, including Senators Richard Lugar of Indiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have backed a clean-energy standard that includes nuclear power as an alternative to the renewable mandate.

Carol Browner, the Obama administration adviser on energy, said separately that “positive conversations” have taken place with U.S. lawmakers to expand the $18.5 billion loan-guarantee program for new nuclear reactors.

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