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. AB

    Well lets see the genius GOP had EIGHT years to bestow their BIG ideas on us. And what did they do? They drove America into a ditch instead.

    April 25, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  2. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Actually, in the past 8 years the economy was ripe for the Republicans to put their grand ideas forward, but they didn't. Now that they, the Republicans, put the economy in the tank want to complain about the Democrats is not wise. I'll take Obama's accomplishments in 100 days over Bush's lack thereof in the past 8 years.

    April 25, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  3. Carmelinda

    GOP, I do not know where you guys are getting your stats from, because We The People,have been watching you nothings go on the air with your incorrect statements, a budget without figures. What is that all about? this is the Twenty First Century and your party doesn't look around and see you are the minority in this day and time you have to be living in a bubble!
    I must say this about immigration, tell the American people, if the president makes the 12 million that are already here legal status who are they taking jobs from? your party isn't thinking,Black Americans are not going back into the fields, cleaning your homes, taking care of your kids and cooking your food, so just who is going to do it? The American people are tired of the GOP just saying NO with NO solutions. Check your attitudes at the door and unclench your fists, there is more than just White rich people in this country. Your trickle down effect didn't work, you guys forgot to turn around and share the wealth with the people that did the work to help you get there, so as far as most people I know give you guys an F as a grade.

    April 25, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  4. John T

    One hundred is a good start. Two hundred fifty would replace the need for coal. In the long term nuclear power is the safest, cleanest and most cost effective way to generate electricity. Politically it is difficult to replace coal. Too many depend on coal for their livelihood. If we could put aside our fear of nuclear power and have the courage to develop generation IV nuclear reactors, there is a chance that the construction costs could be lowered to the point that nuclear power would be significantly cheaper than the dirtiest of coal power plants. We could have a world market for such a product and our labor force would have cleaner and safer jobs. Subsidies from the government would not be needed. If we couple development of nuclear power with a switch in Detroit to electrically powered transportation we can get out from under the economic burden of foreign oil and staggering health cost from air pollution that run into the hundreds of billions annually. The savings from not having to buy foreign oil, the health cost savings and the income from sales of exported nuclear power plants and electric vehicles would stimulate a robust economy. Let's take the risk.

    April 25, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  5. jake

    that is a great idea, so why didnt the republicans do that for the past 10 years? heign sight is 20 20 i guesss

    April 25, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  6. vincent

    It just seems like yesterday, The Republicans were accusing the Democrats of trying to make America more like Europe. Now they know it's not a bad thing. But they are still playing the inferior game of being the victim to the Democrat policy and not as equals. Its a shame for the Republicans.

    April 25, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  7. Joe in Austin

    Yes to nuclear plants – but no to GOP deregulation of the nuclear industry, unless you want to see a real meltdown.

    April 25, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  8. Diane, NY

    As usual with the GOP...almost a decade late and several billion dollars spent in Iraq short.

    April 25, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  9. Steve

    I'm a democrat and I think we need to go all out nuclear. It is the only source of energy that can meet our energy needs and does not emit CO2. It is our only option. The U.S. Navy has been using nuclear power since 1953 and have yet to have an accident. It is safe!

    However, I think we should be building breeder reactors because they can use the U-233 and Pu-239 that is the result of reprocessing. They also breed more fuel than they consume. They can use fertile elements like Th-232 and U-238 (natural uranium that composes 99% of all uranium found in the world) and convert it to fissionable fuels that can sustain a fission reactions like U-233 and Pu-239.

    If we build these kinds of nuke plants, our energy problems are solved. Also, the waste is only toxic for 200-500 years, not thousands or millions.

    Please CNN, do a piece of fast breeder reactors and their benefits!

    April 25, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  10. Jeanne

    Makes much more sense to do what's economically feasible vs government (i.e. taxpayers) subsidies to make it cost effective to use those forms of energy. For example, ethanol is so heavily subsized vs the benefit that only a government would do it. If it made economic sense, private industry would've done it without subsidy. I've been hearing the same about solar/wind energy. We as taxpayers would have to heavily subsidize these for so little return and extravagently high cost to us as consumers.

    April 25, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  11. ben

    They're right. Such a shame. The energy of the sun is safe, clean, and as ubiquitous as the universe. Democrats biggest failure is tort reform and nuclear fuel. We were all expecting intelligent policy, however honestly, like a paradox, republicans to teach intelligent design but support nuclear energy and democrats pseudo pro science but reject possibly science's greatest feat; sad.

    April 25, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  12. Wilber

    Well...the French still have not solved the waste disposal problem which threatens to undermine the industry. Like the Yucca Mountain in the United States, French citizens reject any facility in their locale.

    Also, "recycling" isn't quite what the Republicans are suggesting. From an online article by the IEE Spectrum:

    "The major products of the separation are uranium and plutonium. The former, consisting of the isotopes U-235 and U-238, constitutes 95 percent of the spent fuel. The plutonium yield is just a little more than 1 percent. Most of the uranium is shipped to an Areva plant in southern France and, at the moment, stockpiled. Some analysts predict that uranium prices will eventually justify more reuse of La Hague’s uranium; but for now, utilities find it cheaper to use fuel freshly made from uranium ores and enriched to the precise isotopic composition they need. As for the plutonium, it is shipped across France to the Rhône Valley, where Areva’s Marcoule fuel plant blends it with uranium and fabricates it into fuel for French reactors."

    April 25, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  13. Think Green

    Nuclear power isn't a bad idea, but it isn't the solution. It would be years before new plants would even be approved to be built let alone actually get them to start generating power. And then there is the waste issue. Compare that with wind turbine farms that can be up and running at full capacity within a year or solar panels that can provide home energy savings almost within days of deciding to put them up.

    Republicans have become the party of putting off until tomorrow what needs to be done today, but it is comforting to see that some of them are at least willing to contribute ideas to the debate.

    April 25, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  14. Carl

    This is really nothing knew, and it's part of the argument as to why clean energy is just a liberal agenda issue.

    All energy sources should be on the table, period. Yes, we need to get off fossil fuels as fast as possible as much as possible.

    However, you don't get that way by simply shutting them down and hoping that the money you throw into solar and wind magically makes up the difference.

    This will take decades, and, in all honesty, nuclear energy is a no-brainer. If it's ok for Europe, it's ok here. France gets 70% of their electricity from nuclear.

    April 25, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  15. FreeNLovIt

    Alright! No to France's common sense healthcare system, but yes, to polluting the earth with Nukes! Great job elephants!!!

    April 25, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  16. Drew

    A Republican that actually speak eloquently and uses his head. How refreshing!

    April 25, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  17. Dennis C

    Why does CNN find it necessary to comment (of course negatively) on the Republicans Address. I see that Ed Hornick had to include a note that "the govenment promotes nuclear energy promotion" That's nice.. let us see how it has done this:

    Further on in the rejoinder is the statement that " $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.

    If you do the math, you get less than 1% of the energy budget.. and that part is "shared".

    CNN: Please just give us the statement and let us draw our own conclusions... I saw Newt on CSPAN yesterday and his testimony was interesting... and not interpreted by local media.

    April 25, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  18. kristopher k

    Wow I agree with the Republicans for once! Nuclear power is the way of the future. It's clean, efficient, and safe as ever -and it's made in the USA!

    April 25, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  19. Common Sense

    '
    "...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...."

    and you would think that the GOP could have done this 2000-2008 if it was such a wonderful project: What state is Lamar from and where in this state would he like the nuclear waste buried?

    Easy to ignore the past GOP failures and pontificate without really having a solution to one of the toughest problems about nuclear.

    April 25, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  20. Jon

    Every quotation used in the "transcript" part of this article does not have "end quotes".

    April 25, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  21. Hannah Stevens

    The party of no new ideas living in the 20th century. We certainly need more innovation than this. But nuclear fits into the republican agenda for wars because the material left over from the reactors can then be made into bombs. I am so glad every day that Barack Obama is our president and leading us into the 21st century with 21st century ideas and we will prosper because of it.

    April 25, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  22. Elias

    It is interesting that the Republicans have idolized the French government in the past several weeks. The normally associate the France with "leftist" thinking and socialism. I guess they will try anything since no other ideas seem to be sticking with mainstream Americans.

    April 25, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  23. Vermonter

    Finally, something I can agree with the GOP and presented by Alexander. In fairness, Barack Obama has stated that nuclear power will be part of the solution to our energy needs. Thanks to a relatively small number of no nukes nutcases we're decades behing on this. France also consumes less oil than they did in the 1970's according to some sources.

    April 25, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  24. Corey T., NY

    It's great that at least some Republicans are looking at alternative energies. But of all the alternative energies out there, why choose the most dangerous one? Solar and wind energies are the safest for the environment. They alone cannot meet our country's full needs, but they should be considered and implemented before nuclear power.

    April 25, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  25. 'coiny'

    who cares what they think!? they support torturers!

    April 25, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
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