When skyrocketing energy prices took hold of America last summer, it became clear that developing alternative sources of energy was important to our nation’s economic and national security. Although talk of solar, wind, and biofuels have often dominated alternative energy discussions in the past, today more and more people are recognizing that clean coal and nuclear energy are both key to our nation’s energy future.

As the representative of Pennsylvania’s Fourth Congressional District, I represent an area that has long been a national leader in America’s nuclear industry. Westinghouse Electric Corporation has its world headquarters in my district. This has given me a unique understanding of both the importance and the needs of the nuclear industry.

It has been more than 25 years since a new nuclear power plant has been ordered in the United States. While nuclear plants’ operating costs have decreased substantially in recent years, high construction and regulatory compliance costs continue to be a serious obstacle to building new plants.

The federal government has taken some common sense steps to facilitate the construction of nuclear power plants in recent years. For example, the Nuclear Power 2010 Program has helped to cover the cost of seeking regulatory approval for new reactor sites, applying for new reactor licenses, and preparing detailed plant designs. While this is a step in the right direction, more must be done to ensure that our nation’s regulatory process is as efficient as possible. We must continue to evaluate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s regulatory structure to see if there are additional ways to cut red tape without compromising public safety in any way.

To facilitate the safe and efficient production of nuclear energy, we must also continue to examine how best to store nuclear waste over the long term. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it is creating a blue-ribbon commission to study nuclear waste management. On July 17, I voted for the FY 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, legislation that would require DOE’s commission to include Yucca Mountain as one of the nuclear waste repository sites under review. I want to make sure the government’s decision on whether or not to store waste at Yucca Mountain is made on the basis of scientific considerations alone.

Despite the gains our nation has made in recent years in becoming more energy efficient, there is no doubt that our nation’s electricity use will grow significantly in the coming years. Given this reality, we need to ensure that our government is taking steps that will facilitate, and not impede, the progress of America’s nuclear energy industry.

The views expressed by guest bloggers on the Foundry do not necessarily reflect the views of the Heritage Foundation.