U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has been among the most effective opposition voices against cap-and-trade global warming legislation in recent years, and his rebuttal to Al Gore’s global warming assertions are spot on. Yet, the Senator from Oklahoma is an advocate for a clean environment. It just so happens that he recognizes that nuclear energy is the best way to provide American’s with affordable, emissions-free electricity.

And that was the subject of a speech that the Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee delivered on the floor of the United States Senate yesterday. While hearing global warming skepticism on Capitol Hill is unusual enough, Senator Inhofe took his independent voice a step further by giving an entire speech on nuclear energy (or energy policy in general) without advocating corporate handouts, subsidies, or mandates. Senator Inhofe instead chose to focus on the benefits of nuclear and how the nation might better address some of the regulatory hurdles that unnecessarily raise costs and give rise to the need for subsidies to begin with.

Inhofe said,

I firmly believe that proper planning, detailed schedules, and Commission engagement will foster more thorough, consistent, organized, and efficient efforts to issue new plant licenses. I take my oversight role as Ranking Member on EPW very seriously and will work to ensure that the NRC continues to build on the improvements that have been made since I initiated oversight back in 1997. I intend to increase my focus on this and other licensing issues, including monthly progress reports on licensing activity and regular meetings with Chairman Jaczko.

I will also ask the GAO to examine how well the NRC is meeting previously stated scheduling goals and hearing milestones, whether lessons learned on early applications have resulted in time savings on later ones, and whether the Commission is adequately supervising the licensing process. My hope is to see the NRC issue the first new license before the end of 2011, and eight more before 2013. Given construction estimates of four to five years, the first two reactors could be operational in 2016, with 14 more potentially operational by 2018. Sixteen new reactors will be a good start toward rejuvenating an industry that has been stagnant for the last 30 years. I also firmly believe these reactors can revitalize our economy and meet our growing demand for energy.”

Inhofe’s full speech can be found here.