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Time to go nuclear ; Building a new generation of plants is our only solution to dependency on oil

Just about everyone agrees that the nation's dependence on oil is a double-barreled shotgun aimed at the head of Uncle Sam.

On the one hand, we are bankrupting our economy with the billions we send overseas. And on the other hand, we are slitting our throats as some of this money goes to the regimes that hurt us the most.

The Muslim countries that use our hard-earned cash to finance mosques and madrassas schools are turning our money against us: They keep their youth ignorant, fomenting hatred for the United States and enticing them into jihads to kill our troops overseas and blow up civilians in the United States. Among the many who have made that point was the late Richard Holbrooke, a renowned American diplomat.

If that isn't enough of a problem, our inability to produce other means of energy perpetuates the carbon output that damages our health and environment.

President Obama has called for a "national mission" to end America's dependence on oil, but there's no muscle behind the call.

Renewable energy through sun and wind are admirable, but their contribution to solving the problem is minuscule -- a measly 3 percent today.

The only way to begin shedding our dependence on foreign oil is by producing an abundance of nuclear power. And unlike solar and wind energy, which are beholden to the weather, nuclear plants can run day and night and are carbon free.

It's both a mystery and a tragedy that our government doesn't do the obvious. Threats of a nuclear accident in this country are virtually non-existent. In an even more confined environment of a nuclear submarine, there's never been an accident in the decades we've run our fleet.

Now, there are additional financial incentives. Plants are cheaper to build and uranium prices have dropped 57 percent since 2007.

Our biggest competitor, China, has no problem acting. One of China's largest foreign investors, CLP Industries, has announced it will no longer build new coal plants; it will now build nuclear. It intends to mass produce nuclear reactors to bring down the cost of production. To push nuclear plants even faster, China has told its state-owned grid companies to buy nuclear even if coal is cheaper.

And here is the alarming result: CLP's leaders say the cost per kilowatt of nuclear power in China will run from $1,500 to $2,000 versus $4,000 to $6,000 in America. The United States would never allow such a drubbing in a swim or track meet, but then our government rarely is accused of acting quickly, let alone doing what is necessary to win.

India, our second-largest competitor, announced that it will produce 470,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2050, up from 4,000 today.

A good deal of the negative reaction in Congress today is due to cost overruns and construction delays of the 1970s and '80s. But instead of fixing it as France did -- 80 percent of France's electricity is nuclear generated -- U.S. leaders turned their backs and bought more oil. Sixty-three planned reactors were canceled at a cost of billions to the taxpayer.

In a first timid step in decades, two nuclear reactors are being built in Georgia. The Department of Energy granted its builder, the Southern Co., an $8.5 billion loan guarantee out of an $18.5 billion pot. That's how we quantify this major oil dependency problem -- allocating $18.5 billion to solve it.

In a further insult, Southern had to turn to Westinghouse, now owned by Toshiba of Japan, to build the reactors in China.

It is we, the taxpayers, who will pay for the inadequacies of our government. The fact is that we have had no national energy policy for years.

The course is clear: Nuclear is the only power source that can produce enough energy to substantially reduce our dependence on oil. Since our government doesn't seem to have the will to create a nuclear energy program on its own, we can only hope it will wake up to what other nations are doing and mimic their actions.

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