BUSINESS
03/14/2011 03:24 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

White House Reaffirms Commitment To Nuclear Energy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Monday President Barack Obama remains committed to keeping nuclear energy as part of the energy mix despite concerns about its safety after the earthquake in Japan.

"It remains a part of the president's overall energy plan," White House spokesman Jay Carney said about nuclear energy.

Nuclear is an integral part of the Clean Energy Standard that Obama has been pushing to win support for reducing dependence on oil and coal.

The plan requires power companies to produce 80 percent of their electricity from clean sources including natural gas, "clean coal," renewables like solar and wind power, and nuclear by 2035.

Obama included nuclear in the plan to help win support for it from Republicans. A single nuclear plant provides hundreds of jobs in construction, maintenance and security.

The United States has more than 100 nuclear power reactors that provide about 20 percent of the country's electricity, all virtually free of greenhouse gas emissions.

Analysts said unless things take a drastic turn for the worse at Japan's stricken nuclear plants, the United States may still move forward cautiously on nuclear.

"Barring a life-threatening meltdown in Japan or significantly increased public anxiety over radioactive fallout, we do not expect a new nuclear licensing moratorium," said Whitney Stanco, an energy policy analyst at MF Global.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission hopes to decide by the end of the year whether to approve construction licenses for four new reactors.

Stanco said regulators will be under pressure to outline how the proposals are safer than the older technologies used at the plants damaged in Japan.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Timothy Gardner)

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