Source: Tennessean | Mary Troyan

Nuclear power would gain a more prominent role in the nation’s energy policy under an agenda announced Thursday by Sen. Lamar Alexander, new chairman of the Senate panel that directs government spending on energy projects.

Alexander, a Republican starting his third term, said he wants more nuclear power plants built, more government spending on energy research and speedy decisions on where to store the nation’s nuclear waste.

With the GOP’s takeover of the Senate, Alexander heads the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, which gives his longtime advocacy of nuclear power a national platform.

Tennessee is home to two nuclear power plants operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where the government conducts extensive nuclear energy research.

Alexander also plans to use the perch to continue his assault on the 23-year-old production tax credit for the wind energy industry, which he says costs taxpayers $6 billion annually, distorts the energy market and hampers the expansion of nuclear power.

“Relying on wind when nuclear plants are available is the equivalent of going to war in sailboats when nuclear ships are available,” Alexander said in a speech at the Nuclear Energy Institute in downtown Washington.

Repealing the tax credit on wind energy production would free up spending on energy research, Alexander said.