April 25th, 2009
04:33 PM ET
4 years ago

GOP goes nuclear in policy pitch

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said Saturday that the U.S. should embrace nuclear technology.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said Saturday that the U.S. should embrace nuclear technology.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, made a strong push Saturday for investment in a power source commonly used in France: nuclear energy.

“Now the debate in Congress is shifting to the size of your electric and gasoline bills and to climate change," the Tennessee Republican said in the weekly GOP address Saturday. "So guess who has one of the lowest electric rates in Western Europe and the second lowest carbon emissions in the entire European Union. It’s France."

Watch the full address

Nuclear plants provide 80 percent of France's electricity, according to Alexander, who added that the country even sells "electricity to Germany, whose politicians built windmills and solar panels and promised not to build nuclear plants."

“So you’d think that if Democrats want to talk about energy and climate change and clean air, they’d put American-made nuclear power front and center. ... We say find more American energy and use less ... and one place to start is with 100 more nuclear plants," he said.

Obama's FY 2009 budget, however, promotes nuclear energy development. According to the Department of Energy, the budget includes the licensing of new nuclear plants and additional research into the nuclear fuel cycle.

In addition: $242 million is allocated for Nuclear Power 2010, "an industry cost-shared effort to bring new nuclear plant technologies to market and demonstrate streamlined regulatory processes."

The president’s FY 2010 budget, which passed the House and Senate recently, provides $26.3 billion for the Department of Energy.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, several budget initiatives promote a clean energy agenda, including "support for loan guarantees to help deploy innovative, clean technologies; ad-25 vancement of Carbon Capture Storage (CSS) technology; and 20 other efforts to develop and deploy an array of energy alternatives."

Transcript:

“Do you remember a few years ago when our Congress got mad at France and banned French fries in the House of Representatives cafeteria?

“We Americans always have had a love-hate relationship with the French. Which was why it was so galling last month when the Democratic Congress passed a budget with such big deficits that it makes the United States literally ineligible to join France in the European Union.

“Now of course we don’t want to be in the European Union. We’re the United States of America. But French deficits are lower than ours, and their president has been running around sounding like a Republican - lecturing our president about spending so much.

“Now the debate in Congress is shifting to the size of your electric and gasoline bills and to climate change. So guess who has one of the lowest electric rates in Western Europe and the second lowest carbon emissions in the entire European Union.

“It’s France again.

“And what’s more, they’re doing it with a technology we invented and have been reluctant to use: nuclear power.

“Thirty years ago, the contrary French became reliant on nuclear power when others wouldn’t. Today, nuclear plants provide 80 percent of their electricity. They even sell electricity to Germany, whose politicians built windmills and solar panels and promised not to build nuclear plants.

“Which was exactly the attitude in the United States between 1979 and 2008 – when not one new nuclear plant was built. Still, nuclear, which supplies just 20% of all U.S. electricity, provides 70% of our pollution-free electricity.

“So you’d think that if Democrats want to talk about energy and climate change and clean air, they’d put American-made nuclear power front and center. Instead, their answer is billions in subsidies for renewable energy from the sun, the wind and the earth.

“Well, we Republicans like renewable energy, too.

“We proposed a new Manhattan Project – like the one in World War II – to find ways to make solar power cost-competitive and to improve advanced biofuels. But today, renewable electricity from the sun, the wind and the earth provides only about one and one-half percent of America’s electricity. Double it or triple it, and we still don’t have very much.

“So there is a potentially a dangerous energy gap between the renewable electricity we want and the reliable electricity we must have.

“To close that gap, Republicans say start with conservation and efficiency. We have so much electricity at night, for example we could electrify half our cars and trucks and plug them in while we sleep without building one new power plant.

“On that, Republicans and Democrats agree.

“But when it comes to producing more energy, we disagree.

“When Republicans say, build 100 new nuclear power plants during the next twenty years, Democrats say, no place to put the used nuclear fuel.

“We say, recycle the fuel - the way France does. They say, no we can’t.

“We say, how about another Manhattan Project to remove carbon from coal plant emissions? Imaginary, they say.

“We say, for a bridge to a clean energy future, find more natural gas and oil offshore. Farmers, homeowners and factories must have the natural gas. And more of the oil we’ll still need should be ours, instead of sending billions overseas.

“They can’t wait to put another ban on offshore drilling.

“We say incentives. They say mandates.

“We say, keep prices down. Democrats say, put a big new national sales tax on electric bills and gasoline.

“We both want a clean energy future, but here’s the real difference: Republicans want to find more American energy, and use less.

“Democrats want to use less – but they really don’t want to find much more.

“They talk about President Kennedy sending a man to the moon. Their energy proposals wouldn’t get America halfway to the moon.

“We Republicans didn’t like it when Democrats passed a budget that gave the French bragging rights on deficits. So we’re not about to let the French also outdo us on electric and gasoline bills, clean air and climate change.

“We say find more American energy and use less. Energy that’s as clean as possible, as reliable as possible, and at as low a cost as possible. And one place to start is with 100 more nuclear plants.”


Filed under: Energy • Lamar Alexander • Republican Party
soundoff (474 Responses)
  1. Jaime

    As a Democrat maybe nuclear power is something to look into.I think we need to make sure it outways its risks.Just the words Nuclear Power Plants, strewn across America scares the hell out of me.Who knows maybe we can trade electricity to Mexico for there oil.

    April 25, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  2. frederick

    Who cares what the GOP thinks, again...? i'm sorry. I suppose CNN has to pretend they do, but really. This is the party that accuses the President of the United States of being a socialist. They should be getting psychiatric help instead of making press releases.

    April 25, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  3. david

    So – the GOP goes French after all

    April 25, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  4. Byard, Philadelphia, PA

    This is the right move

    April 25, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  5. Justin

    Sen. Alexander seems all too excited to talk about the budget deficits we're saddled with. Apparently he forgot that there was a 150 BILLION DOLLAR budget surplus that the Republicans inherited and subsequently destroyed. Congratulations, Senator Alexander.

    April 25, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  6. An American

    Imaginary?

    Isn't that the fantasy land that the Republicans live in day by day?

    April 25, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  7. Acrab

    This man is unamerican. Has he forgotten about the whiny, sniveling french who betrayed America by not going to war? What an elitist european socialist. If france has nuclear power, than we can't have it because everything France stands for is wrong. This makes me sick. I need to go eat some freedom fries.

    April 25, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  8. Jacob Keyes

    The main question about building nuclear powerplants, other than preventing another Chernobyl, is where will the nuclear waste be stored? As the residents near Yucca mountain would tell you, anywhere is fine but non would like the stuff placed near them.

    Crawford Texas anyone?

    April 25, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  9. Jerry

    What is the reluctance to use an energy source that is proven? Conserve, yes. Alternate fuels, yes. But until then, nuclear first, natural gas and then clean coal and oil. Makes sense. France has been doing is successfully for years as the article points out.

    April 25, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  10. Mike in MN

    Rather than try and find common ground with Republicans and conservatives, Obama and the Democrats continue to exclude them from the process.

    Today Obama said in his weekly national address that the deficits are not sustainable and threaten our future. But up to now, when Republicans pointed this out, he said they had no right to talk about deficits and to shut up, while offering no plan to deal with them himself. On April 15 I took part in the TEA PARTY protest to voice my alarm and anger over the out of control spending and unsustainable and dangerous deficits. The White House response was for Home Land Security to list my concerns as those that a right wing extremist domestic terrorist would have. And top White House staffer Axelrod called TEA PARTY protests as unhealthy. Is Obama now going to be watched by Home Land Security as a potential right wing extremist or just myself and my fellow TEA PARTY patriots? I will continue to protest and will not hold my breath waiting for any meanfull spending cuts to come from the likes of the liberal Obama or Congressional Democrats. Obama is the leader of the lowest bunch of thugs that Washington has ever seen.

    April 25, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  11. PJ

    Doesn't the GOP spell that word N-U-C-U-L-A-R?

    April 25, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  12. Vincent Petrosino

    France is the size of the state of Texas. It is small enough to use nuclear energy efficiently but it is not France's only sourced. France still uses foreign oil. Have forgotten TMI, Chernobyl and other mishapps. The Obama seeks energy sources that will keep us green and leave our future generations unharmed.

    April 25, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  13. George

    It appears that the Republicans now realize that, since the current French government is conservative, not "socialist," it's okay to say nice things about "socialist" France." As for the "socialist" Germans and their solar panels and windmills, don't tell anyone but their government is also currently conservative. And the "socialist" Obama administration actually includes nuclear energy in its energy mix for the future and "socialist" Obama has talked about "clean coal" at least since last year's election campaign. Those labels sure get confusing. Maybe we can learn more from our "socialist" allies in Europe. How about universal health care and a serious mass transit system for starters? We can't wait for next Saturday's weekly address.

    April 25, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  14. Yobee

    It's about time for us to get over Three Mile Island, isn't it? If this is the only issue that the republicants can get together on, so be it. It's certainly the right climate to begin talking about energy creation in an adult manner, sans the histrionics of the treehuggers over the dangers of nuclear energy.

    April 25, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  15. Mike

    I'm an Obama supporter and a lifelong Democrat but I completely agree with the GOP on this one. We absolutely need more nuclear power plants and we need to reprocess the spent fuel. It is the only REAL way to reduce our carbon footprint. I'm also pro-solar and pro-wind but the reality is that these technologies do not scale well enough to make a significant dent to our requirements. We need to build up all alternatives but we definitely need to build nuclear power plants.

    April 25, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  16. Tom

    Wow, France. When Bush and Cheney were bullying the rest of the world into giving them permission to attack Iraq in 2003, and Chirac, then president of France, resisted, the GOP declared France to be the country of the bad.

    French fries were renamed into Freedom Fries ("freedom" was the favorite name related to anything the Bush regime was exercising oppression of free opinion).

    And now, the GOP discovers that not only with Iraq, the French were right, they are even right when it comes to how to have electricity and clean air at the same time. I agree. Nuclear (or would the GOP spell "nucular" ?) energy sure is cleaner than "clean coal" can ever be.

    It's really funny that in the transcript, the GOP man is putting France into the position of a big competitor when it comes to doing things right and efficiently (low electric bills, clean energy, lower deficits, etc).
    So if the French are doing so many things right, why paint them in dark colors ? The French are not the enemies of the US, but during the Bush regime, they strongly resisted the bullying and the distinct fascist smell of the Bush-Cheney propaganda and methods. The French should be commended on their strength of personality to stand up against people like Bush, while the GOP marched in lockstep with him.

    April 25, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  17. Michael Smith

    Are they FRIGGIN CRAZY? "Embrace nuclear power?!" What a bunch of backwards hillbillies! The GOP's really DUMB. Oh, wait, I shouldn't speak badly of the infirmed and sick, after all, THEY are the mutant result of exposure to radiation.

    It's NO WONDER they're going the way of the Do Do Bird!

    Idiots.

    Really.

    Michael.

    April 25, 2009 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  18. Oliver

    Nuclear energy is a good idea, but it is a good idea for the same reason that wind, solar, etc. is a good idea (energy independence / low GHG emissions). It is a bad idea because of the inherent risk of a meltdown involved, and the fact that when you add in the cost of secured storage for the waste for literally hundreds of years, it may not be the most economical choice.

    It should be an option on the table, but it is not an argument against other instruments aimed at reducing GHG emissions.

    Finally, just a thought: Do you ever feel like the Republicans need things be at least a little bit evil to get behind them?

    April 25, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  19. A Rogers

    “We proposed a new Manhattan Project – like the one in World War II – to find ways to make solar power cost-competitive and to improve advanced biofuels. But today, renewable electricity from the sun, the wind and the earth provides only about one and one-half percent of America’s electricity. Double it or triple it, and we still don’t have very much."

    And, like they have for the last 40 years starting with Nixon's tax cuts to benefit the rich, they want our children and grandchildren to pay for it.

    April 25, 2009 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  20. will5ight

    seriously, somewhat of a good argument if it ws focused on the building of nuclear power plants and the benefits of building those plants. nonetheless, this speech brings up the question as to why germany will not build a plant in their backyard if nuclear power is a critical component to their energy policy. Additionally, what is the length of time it would take to construct these plants. Of course it would create jobs but the energy it would produce would only come 10 years from now. Finally, if the point of his speech was to show a hole in the current energy policy of this administration then his speech has a couple of holes as well because it failed to mention the necessity of more fuel efficient vehicles utilizing alternative and renewable fuels or was that intentional?

    April 25, 2009 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  21. Dan Williams

    Wind and solar are 100% safe. Before we jump to adding new nuclear plants, we need to consider the problems and environmental costs that are inherent with nuclear power. Nuclear waste storage is a huge concern, and the ever present risk of a failure that leads to a melt down is a also a huge concern. We must not forget Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl.

    April 25, 2009 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  22. mr,c

    thats a great thought. but remember the enviromentalist. they will do every thing in their power to stop it and then go around the corner and complain about global warming. so i say just stop all the talking a build the plants starting tomorrow. you want jobs in america? well this should create several thousand jobs. so again stop talking and get going.

    April 25, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  23. Peter

    There are flaws with nuclear energy, but I believe its a step closer from getting off fossil fuels.

    April 25, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  24. TM

    Alexander, are you trying to follow those crazy, socialist French?

    April 25, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  25. Sean

    ...Whoa. An actual IDEA coming out of a Republican? I'm waiting for the catch. Do we have to torture French people to do this? Or start a war? Or give money to rich people? I'm confused.

    April 25, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
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