With increased reliance on foreign oil threatening national security and economic development, the United States must, as a matter of national policy, examine and develop alternative energy resources. These may include -- but are not limited to -conservation, domestic oil and gas exploration, abundant domestic coal, biofuels, wind and solar, hydrogen fuel cell technology and nuclear energy. While, in the near term, no single technology or policy can eliminate America's dependence on foreign oil, a combination of approaches holds great potential for assuring our nation's energy independence.

In the case of nuclear energy, renewed interest revisits an earlier time, when nuclear-powered generating stations were perceived as the answer to America's need for clean, presumably limitless energy. Forty years ago, electric utilities actively sought permits and licensing for nuclear plants. Enthusiasm for such facilities declined in the wake of enormous construction cost overruns (Shoreham) and serious questions about the technology's safety and environmental impact. Widely reported near disasters and disasters (Three Mile Island and Chernobyl) contributed to many communities' "not in my backyard" attitude toward nuclear energy. But, are those concerns realistic in 2008?

The "next generation" of nuclear energy offers improved safety, reliability and cost effectiveness, with the added benefit of significantly reduced carbon emissions (as opposed to coal-fired plants). Still, many Americans reject nuclear energy as a viable alternative, citing health, safety and environmental concerns, and comparatively new fears that nuclear-powered generating stations may be difficult to secure from terrorist attacks. Additional concerns center on transportation and storage of radioactive by-products of nuclear energy. Much as they reject nuclear plants in their "neighborhood" many Americans reject the concept of waste treatment and storage facilities in their states, much less their "backyards.

With increased interest in nuclear energy and an anticipated surge in permit requests for construction of nuclear plants, advocates of the technology must answer a series of questions. These include: Is nuclear energy aviable, cost-effective alternative to other generation methods? Is it safe and reliable? Will environmental justice concerns be addressed when planning, building and operating nuclear energy facilities? Under what circumstances will Americans embrace nuclear energy as an acceptable alternative to existing generation methods? Assuming a new generation of nuclear-powered generating stations is built, does America have a sufficiently educated and trained workforce to build, operate and maintain such facilities in a safe, reliable fashion?

Until these questions are answered to the satisfaction of citizens, public and private interest groups, corporations, policy-makers and elected officials, the future of nuclear-powered generating stations is unclear. By answering these questions in a concise, balanced and credible manner, this conference and its products hold great potential for advancing our nation's related quests for energy independence, economic development and national security.