SPRINGFIELD, Missouri Republican John McCain would put the United States on course to build 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030 if elected president, the Arizona senator said on Wednesday.
McCain, his party's presumptive nominee in this fall's presidential election, is laying out his plan to make the country energy independent.
"If I am elected president, I will set this nation on a course to building 45 new reactors by the year 2030, with the ultimate goal of 100 new plants to power the homes and factories and cities of America," he said.
There are 104 operating nuclear reactors nationwide at present, which generate about 20 percent of the nation's power supply.
McCain has argued forcefully for further nuclear plants, seeing them as part of a solution to fighting climate change and establishing U.S. energy independence.
Sen. Barack Obama, McCain's presumptive Democratic opponent, has issued supportive statements about nuclear power but has set no outright goal for building plants.
Though nuclear energy is key to meeting U.S. climate concerns, the issue of disposing of nuclear waste from U.S. plants and solving nuclear proliferation concerns are also paramount, Obama's campaign said on its website.
The key roadblock to new U.S. nuclear plants has been finding a home for nuclear waste. Congress designated Yucca Mountain, 90 miles from Las Vegas, to be the nation's waste repository, but the site is years behind schedule and may never open because of powerful opponents like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not issued a new nuclear plant license since the mid 1970s and utility companies have balked for years at constructing new sites because of concerns about plant safety and cost overruns.
McCain, speaking at a campaign event on energy in the electoral battleground state of Missouri, added he would set aside $2 billion a year for research and development into clean coal technology.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Christian Wiessner)