Mr. CHAMBLISS. Madam President, I rise this afternoon to discuss the benefits of nuclear power to our Nation.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to visit the Savannah River Site, along with three of our colleagues, Senator Isakson and our two South Carolina colleagues, Senator Graham and Senator DeMint, to watch the Department of Energy employees at the Savannah River Site carry out their mission.
This site has been safely operating since the 1950s refining materials for nuclear weapons. In more than fifty years, there has not been a single nuclear incident at the Savannah River Site, proving that it is possible to safely operate and maintain our nuclear facilities. But in the past decade, the place that has helped bolster America's standing in the atomic age and has been a watchword for America's nuclear might has also begun to harness spent forces for peaceful purposes--to bring light and heat into American homes.
The Savannah River Site has helped lead the way in disposing of nuclear material. For more than 6 years, the facility has blended weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium to make low-enriched uranium that is being converted into commercial reactor fuel. It recently expanded its mission to include converting excess weapons-grade plutonium from decommissioned nuclear weapons and will become a consolidation point for all weapons-grade plutonium in the United States. This will result in more fuel for commercial power reactors.
Materials that once tipped our arsenal of nuclear warheads are now being used to provide the light by which Georgians eat dinner, do their homework, and the power with which they heat their homes in winter and cool them in our hot summers. In fact, one-fifth of Georgia's total generating capacity comes from nuclear power--second only to coal.
The two nuclear plants in Georgia provide some of the lowest cost electricity in our State. The power they generate is safe, reliable, and, most significant in the midst of this national debate on climate change--emissions free and environmentally responsible.
Despite those clear advantages, in America at large, nuclear power produces some 20 percent of the Nation's energy. Compare that to France, where nuclear power sources provide nearly 80 percent of that country's power.
Intriguingly, in terms of national security, the Savannah River Site is playing a key role in America's nuclear nonproliferation efforts. The nuclear power generated from reducing our nuclear weapons stockpile at the Savannah River Site is coming full circle: In its conversion from weapons to commercial nuclear fuel, it is helping reduce America's dependance on foreign energy sources, often from countries that do not like us and do not have our best interests at heart.
Additionally, the work conducted at the Savannah River Site helps maintain America's technical and scientific nuclear base, preserving the expertise to expand commercial nuclear energy as well as the expertise to modernize our existing nuclear weapons arsenal.
I was impressed by the talent and expertise of Savannah River Site employees I met who are some of the leading nuclear experts in the world. However, they are an endangered breed and will continue to be unless America commits to expanded nuclear energy and research and development.
We know America's energy consumption will increase. We know the increased demand will drive the need for more base-load capacity. Demographers predict that 40 percent of the total U.S. population will live in the Southeast by 2030. Georgia alone is slated to add 4 million new residents during that time frame. If we are to meet the growing energy needs of Georgia and of our Nation in keeping with America's national security interests, the ingenuity of employees at the Savannah River Site and other such facilities is key to such efforts. I applaud their great work. I look forward to many more years of expansion of the technology that is being developed to dispose of our nuclear waste as well as recycle our nuclear waste and to reuse that waste.