April 25th, 2009
04:33 PM ET
3 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. foney

    Great idea Lamar! Let's bury all of the waste in TN!

    April 25, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  2. beau in nor co

    Sounds great except there is still the unresolved problem of what to do with nuclear waste.

    This is a politically "toxic" problem as no politician is supporting burying it in their voter’s back yard. For example Yucca mountain….

    The GOP needs to get real and come up with real solutions. Just being the oppossition party is not working for them.

    April 25, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  3. G.G. Campbellq

    Great idea. More power to nuclear power.
    Not only is it clean, but safer. (1000;s die each year due to coal pollution and accidents.)

    The tax issue is different. The lower French deficit is based upon much high tax rates. One of our problems today is not enough tax revenue to cover all the responsibilities the federal and state governments have assumed. We could solve the deficit problem with a carbon use tax. We should pay for the waste that we dump into the air!

    April 25, 2009 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  4. Viet Tran

    What is it with Republicans and their tendency to chose the most obviously bad things to adopt? First it was drilling for oil...unsustainable, then ethanol crops...unsustainable, now again the Nuclear Power again unsustainable. When hydro, solar, wind, geothermal, algae has such a long way until they are exhausted. Why don't they make new jobs with these ideas until every avenue is exhausted AND THEN talk about the less than desirable choices like Oil and Nuclear...Oh wait, I totally forgot...they want profits and they want it now and in obscene amounts.

    April 25, 2009 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  5. Slaton

    This is not a partisan issue. New technologies such as "pebble bed" reactors need to be explored. There is a caveat though, that the Ukraine is the major supplier of nuclear materials in the world. So instead of the Saudi's, we will bow before Yulia Tymoshenko.

    Nuclear indeed deserves a serious look, democrat or republican.

    April 25, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  6. Sean Chong

    I thought GOP lists France as a socialist country? Nuclear began as an expensive technology.... and the cost began to lower over the years. Technology will improve over the years, if we bother to invest in them. Nuclear power generates a lot of nuclear wastes... something that this guy didn't know...

    April 25, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  7. Robert of Overgaard

    So now when it's convenient, after dissing France for about 9 years, the GOP wants to emulate France when it comes to nuclear power.

    How many different ways do the GOP spell hypocrite?

    April 25, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  8. Independent from PA

    who cares about what you guys think.The era of greed and lining wealthy pockets are over. It is the economy, stupid!

    April 25, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  9. Craig Nazor

    Nowhere does he mention the problems of properly disposing of nuclear waste, which includes uranium mine tailings, not just spent fuel. I guess we just pass that one on to our children. Just like denying global climate change, the Republicans are trying to sell the American people another pig in a poke.

    How come the Republicans all of a sudden care about global climate change?

    The cap on CO2 is not a tax. It is a fee to pay to clean up global-warming pollution created by releasing CO2. Republicans can't seem to understand what we all learned in kindergarten – CLEAN UP YOUR MESS.

    April 25, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  10. Honorable Kansas Vet

    For once I must agree we need to rely on nuclear power more than we do. However, it will require that they get their act together with regards to safe storage of spent fuel rods.

    April 25, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  11. timz

    I thought the French were the Republicans' "bete noir" (so to speak). Freedom fries, anyone?

    April 25, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  12. R Wolf

    Funny how the republicans hated France – everything French including French Fries, remember that – but I guess, as with
    everything they do, the republicans will side with anyone in
    order to feel they have any revelence. Well, to so many of
    us Americans – they don't!

    April 25, 2009 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  13. Citizen AJ - Northern Virginia

    The republican Senator from very RED Tennessee is now pushing a nuclear agenda that John McCain discussed during the campaign. Maybe the French have figured out how to handle the waste from nuclear plants, SAFELY!!! If not, that is the dilema. Good source of energy, but what do you do with the waste. President Obama was NEVER against nuclear energy, he was against solving one problem while creating another. Lets get it right and use American made energy as the Senator suggest but he needs to tell ALL of the story, not just what makes for a political story.

    April 25, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  14. independent

    I am in favor of nuclear energy, if and when we can figure out what to do with the waste. Currently, it has to be stored, safely, for hundreds of years, and we don't have a place where we can do that.

    The GOP might suggest burying it is some poorer country that needs money, that is not a solution.

    Find a solution, then use the energy.

    April 25, 2009 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  15. skeptic1

    yeah, nuclear is providing 70% of our 'pollution free' energy until that one accident, and all of a sudden it's providing 10,000% of an unimaginable sort of pollution.... not worth it. side note – absolutely hysterical that GOP is apparently drooling over France and nuclear power. if they were to get 100 new nuclear power plants, would french fries be french fries again?

    April 25, 2009 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  16. Milton Valler

    I'm a San Francisco Raving Liberal. (I really live in SF)
    And I support Lamar Alexander AND nuclear power 100%. Even 200%

    Grow up America! There are dangers with every power source.
    Nuclear power sure beats those hundreds of "dead still" windmills I pass every time I drive I-580 to/from the SF Bay Area.

    April 25, 2009 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  17. Bo

    I like this idea... and Obama can get both sides in on this. It creates jobs to construct and maintain, could be a centerpiece of a more effective power grid, and is safer and cleaner than most realize.

    April 25, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  18. BOB THE ENGINEER

    The nuclear industry has made great strides along with other technologies and provides us with a wonderful oppurtunity to do great things for our economic plot and our environment. I have seen first hand how the nuclear industry can fuel a whole town/states economy by creating jobs. I can only hope that law makers can see this and will take advantage of this oppurtunity now.

    April 25, 2009 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  19. tom k

    Instead of nuclear,Geothermal energy should be a top priority,because there is no radiation.Radioactive waste is the main issue .transporting waste across our nation to nevada [whose people dont want it there] is the main prolblem.does any one want a nuclear waste spill on their highway?When nuclear power first came along,it was supposed to be one of the cheapest forms of energy ever,almost free.Now it is oneof the most expensive ever devised.

    April 25, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  20. Simmy

    “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."
    *************************************************************************
    I don't think it's realistic. The environment is much too saturated with pollution now, to try and find new outlets for nuclear fuel in the future. Republicans at this point are reaching to the moon to find solutions that make sense, but they can't seem to get away from talking points and sound bites. For example, he says: “They talk about President Kennedy sending a man to the moon. Their energy proposals wouldn’t get America halfway to the moon." Then another: “We say, keep prices down. Democrats say, put a big new national sales tax on electric bills and gasoline." They continue to harp on 'spending.'

    America is moving in a new direction. Reps. are determined to resist change. America is not attempting to get to the moon - Poor analogy.

    April 25, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  21. Dwight - Rockford, IL

    We built a nuke in our area 35 years ago. Its construction cost was at least triple the original estimate. It took 10 years to come on line. We had one of the highest summertime rates per kW hour in the nation. Spent fuel rods need to be stored in a pond on the premises because there is no safe way to dispose of them. A decommisioning charge is paid every month on our bill because these plants have a lifetime and will be shutdown and dismantled. I was under the impression the French use a breeder style reactor that is more difficult to control but uses waste radiation to operate, thus less contamination to dispose of.

    April 25, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  22. D. Arrollado

    As a middle school teacher, I frequently observer the logic used by children much like the argument presented by our distingushed Senator Alexander. Just the other day, a student remarked that if I lowered testing standards, then all students would score much better, and therefore, we would become a high achieving school.
    Since used nuclear fuel rods are dangerous for thousands of years, and there is no conclusive way of destroying the waste, storing the material is the current solution. I don't believe this is making our society any greener. I have a counter proposal for Sen. Alexander, let's build the 100 nuclear plants, and store all the waste in his beloved state of Virginia. I'm sure his Republican constituents would agree that his efforts would benefit the nation and the world.

    April 25, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  23. shaun in wi

    Finally something I can agree with the republican'ts on...

    April 26, 2009 03:01 am at 3:01 am |
  24. purpleone

    Um,yes. I remember when the Republicans in Congress were banning everything french because France wouldn't support Pres. Bush on Iraq. Now the republicans are singing France's praises? Wow...

    April 26, 2009 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
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