Nuclear Energy Institute spent US$580,000 in Q1 lobbying U.S. officials about financial support for new reactors, safety regulations, other issues, disclosure report finds

NEW YORK , September 30, 2011 () – The main trade group for the nuclear power industry, the Nuclear Energy Institute, spent $580,000 in the first quarter lobbying federal officials about financial support for new reactors, safety regulations and other issues, according to a disclosure report.

That's 32 percent more than the $440,000 the trade group spent in the second quarter of last year and 6 percent more than the $545,000 it spent in the first quarter of 2011.

The nuclear crisis in Japan last March brought about by the earthquake and tsunami led to calls for tighter safety regulations for nuclear plants in the United States.

NEI, based in Washington, lobbied the government on measures designed to ensure the nation's 104 commercial reactors can withstand natural disasters. It also lobbied on a measure that would require nuclear operators to transfer radioactive spent nuclear fuel from cooling pools inside or near reactor cores to dry casks further from the reactors.

In the Japanese nuclear accident, crowded pools of spent nuclear fuel overheated when the nuclear station's cooling power was knocked out.

NEI also lobbied the government over environmental regulations. Congress is considering measures that would delay new clean air and clean water rules and curb the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to issue rules by forcing the EPA to factor in the cost of their implementation in addition to medical and scientific evidence.

There also are several measures under consideration that would block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

Nuclear power generation produces no greenhouse gases and none of the airborne toxins such as mercury that EPA clean air rules target. But many nuclear plants use outdated cooling systems that consume enormous amounts of water. Replacing those cooling systems with newer systems that use less water is expensive.

NEI also lobbied for funds for research and development for smaller, cheaper reactors and other nuclear technologies.

Nuclear reactors produce about 20 percent of the nation's electricity, but the country's reactors are aging. No new reactor has been planned and completed since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

In April through June, NEI lobbied Congress, the Commerce Department, the Defense Department, the Executive Office of the President, the Departments of Transportation, Energy, State and Homeland Security Department, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Office of Management and Budget, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, according to the report the NEI filed July 19 with the House clerk's office.

Lobbyists are required to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches of government under a federal law enacted in 1995.

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