MALTA - Nuclear power remains a viable option for the Capital Region despite the recent disaster in Japan, U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, said Wednesday.
He applauded calls for safety reviews of existing plants, but said the U.S. shouldn't make hasty policy decisions until the Japanese accident is fully investigated.
A new 30-member Energy Advisory Council that Gibson created held its first-ever meeting at the Saratoga Technology + Energy Park in Luther Forest.
Rep. Chris Gibson
(Enterprise file photo)
"In light of Japan, let's make sure we study it very closely to understand what happened there," Gibson said. "I believe that nuclear energy is something that should be part of our future. Indeed, it should be part of a comprehensive energy policy for the entire Capital Region."
The freshman congressman has touted nuclear power's economic and jobs benefits and wants the area to have a power plant and nuclear waste recycling facility.
"I would think all communities would be interested in knowing all the facts," he said. "Going forward, education is going to be very important here. Any licensing decision must be based on facts."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has raised concerns about the safety of the Indian Point nuclear reactors in the lower Hudson Valley, and environmental groups have asked him to address similar issues with upstate plants near Lake Ontario as well.
"In the wake of the Japanese nuclear disaster, it is critically important to question the safety of all of New York's aging commercial nuclear reactors," the groups wrote in a letter to Cuomo.
Specifically, the groups say potential safety hazards exist at the FitzPatrick and Nine Mile Point 1 and 2 plants in Oswego and the Ginna plant near Rochester.
New York's six nuclear plants currently provide 32 percent of the state's energy needs. They are among the nation's 104 plants that supply 20 percent of America's energy demands.
Environmental groups say two of the reactors in Oswego have the same design as Japan's Fukushima reactors that were damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Oswego also ranks fourth in the nation for most on-site spent fuel storage, they said.
The groups also called on Cuomo to address the risks facing all of New York's reactors in the event of any emergency, natural or manmade.
Gibson said his advisory committee will investigate opportunities for all types of energy development, not just nuclear. "Our panel is not going to superimpose any policy decision on a local community," he said. "What we are going to do is illuminate the choices."
"Any talk about energy has to include the grid (transmission) and how we can conserve energy," Gibson added.
The group's first priority will be educating small business, farm and home owners about existing tax benefits and incentives for things such as solar panels. He cited one party that realized a 34 percent energy savings by installing a new geothermal system.
The panel is expected to meet quarterly but work continuously by sharing information electronically. Actual policy recommendations might take up to a year to develop. Gibson said he plans to promote energy discussions with other members of New York's congressional delegation.
"We plan to share information that comes out of our panel across the region," he said.
Committee member Mark Bomba of Alteris Renewables in Albany said he's encouraged by the group's approach, evaluating all types of energy sources. "We'll see a broad spectrum of knowledge," he said.
The Glens Falls-based Barton Group wants to install 10 wind turbines near Gore Mountain in North Creek. The project needs approval from the Adirondack Park Agency and is in a "slow-down mode" because of declining wholesale electricity prices, company vice president James McAndrew said.
However, McAndrew said he supports Gibson's strategy of wanting to promote domestic energy production, to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, which quite often influences U.S. military policy.
"We can skip all these problems if we can make it (energy) right here at home," McAndrew said. "I think he's on the right track."