Nuclear energy lobbyists scramble on Capitol Hill
March 14th, 2011
07:19 PM ET
3 years ago

Nuclear energy lobbyists scramble on Capitol Hill

Washington (CNN) - Lobbyists for the nuclear energy industry rushed to Capitol Hill Monday to try to reassure members of Congress and their aides who are deeply concerned about the nuclear crisis in Japan, and what it could mean for nuclear energy in the U.S.

As he walked the halls of Congress going from meeting to meeting, Alex Flint, a top lobbyist for the Nuclear Energy Institute, told CNN that the industry's immediate goal was to give worried lawmakers as much information as possible.

"We're trying to make sure people understand exactly what's occurring - understand the context under which they're going to be making decisions in the future about the way in which the Congress wants to treat nuclear energy," Flint told CNN.

Flint was careful not to sound like he was trying to pressure Congress at such a sensitive time, but there is no question he and other industry representatives are working to prevent support for nuclear power from unraveling on Capitol Hill.

Flint's first afternoon stop was a meeting he helped arrange with Senate Energy and Commerce Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-New Mexico, a supporter of nuclear energy, for aides to all senators and Senate committees.

In a sign of the intense interest, some 150 Senate aides showed up for the briefing to hear from representatives of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's lobbying arm, and Exelon, the Chicago-based owner of the largest group of U.S. nuclear power plants.

Later, they repeated the same briefing for aides to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Appropriations Committee.

Bipartisan support for nuclear power has been growing in recent years, as lawmakers look for alternative energy sources.

The crisis in Japan threatens to reverse strides the nuclear industry was making in getting financial and policy support from Congress for new nuclear power plants.

During the closed-door question-and-answer session, industry representatives handed out an 11-page information packet, obtained by CNN, which was clearly designed to quell concerns.

"Given the safety record in this country...we believe that public support for nuclear power should not decline dramatically," reads the industry prepared packet.

Despite the push, already senators who have long championed nuclear energy in the United States were voicing concern.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, told CNN he believes it’s best to "slow things down" with regard to the permitting process for new nuclear power plants in the United States, until more information is known about the situation in Japan.

Sen. Lisa Murkowksi, R-Alaska, said she hopes nuclear energy in the U.S. is not in jeopardy, but isn’t so sure.

"We're all watching the situation in Japan with a great deal of concern about what Mother Nature has wrought not only to the country of Japan but perhaps just how nuclear is viewed in the world," said Murkowksi, as she raced to her own meeting about the crisis.

Flint is pushing hard to keep congressional supporters from turning their backs on nuclear power.

"We have a lot of support from politicians in both parties right now. They all have questions - they've been watching the news," Flint told CNN, "whether they’re changing their mind, whether there are issues we need to address, this is a two way conversation."

As Flint moved from congressional meeting to meeting, word came that top Democrats called for an investigation of the safety of U.S. nuclear power plants.

Without missing a beat, Flint said that was to be expected, and insisted the industry would welcome a probe of safety.

To be sure, Flint is getting help from powerful lawmakers who are not wavering.

"I would hope leaders here would not try to take advantage on an opportunity to demagogue an issue and appeal to the worst, appeal to the fears in people," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, told CNN.

By the end of the day, Flint and other leading representatives of the nuclear industry had met with hundreds of people on Capitol Hill - mostly congressional aides.

It helps that Flint used to be the staff director for the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee.

He says that gives him a better understanding of how Congress works. It also gets his phone calls returned and gets him in the door, as he begins what he says will be a long process of convincing lawmakers not to give up on nuclear energy in the United States, as they and their constituents watch the horrific images coming from Japan.


Filed under: Congress
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Root and stem

    The Obamists are looking for every reason to destroy our economy. NOT increasing nuclear energy would be a disaster. Obama and his Progressive bed buddies are salivating at the idea of deep sixing nuclear energy production. CNN and NPR are supporting them.

    March 14, 2011 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  2. Jon

    So what does it all boil down to? "Well, no, we're really not any safer than the Japanese plants. But we don't really live near any quake zones, so what's the worst that can happen?"

    March 14, 2011 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  3. T'sah from Virginia

    ["We're all watching the situation in Japan with a great deal of concern about what Mother Nature has wrought not only to the country of Japan but perhaps just how nuclear is viewed in the world,"]

    Wow, I just touched on this in the previous blog!! We are NOT in control of NATURE – We got so "out-tuned" from it, we get angry when it strikes!! You cannot prevent the deaths that occur from them – but you can STOP the "unnecessary" deaths as a result of our negligence!!!

    March 14, 2011 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  4. MAC

    If we do not build nuclear power plants to replace coal plants, then we need to build more coal and drill for the new gas generation plants. With my job I can tell you that natural gas pipelines get cycled everytime that wind power is scheduled and the wind does not show up as expected. Solar, wind, and ethenol have been subsidized for over 40 years and they still are not efficient and reliable. I you do not believe in using nuclear coal, and gas or oil, then turn off your electronics, heat, AC, TV, laundry, fridge, and all the other things in your house that use electricity. Then we will see what the liberal elitist mentality and priorities are.

    March 14, 2011 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  5. OneMoreTime

    "Given the safety record in this Country"... Didn't we hear this from the oil industry before the worst case scenario
    happened in the Gulf? Prayers for Japan.

    March 14, 2011 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  6. Ray

    Nuclear power is a vital component of the US energy network, but current constructions should be halted for a while to fully take advantage of analyzing the Japanese plant's fate. We just can't have a meltdown like the one in Chernobyl.

    March 14, 2011 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  7. Obamacare = Romneycare v1.01

    I wonder how many of these lobbyists actually live close to a working nuclear power plant? Or at least downwind from one.

    March 14, 2011 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  8. jules sand-perkins

    We need nuclear energy. I just don't want a plant at all close to my house.
    An option to our increased need for energy would be to reproduce more modestly, and more in proportion to our land. Of course, then we wouldn't get as many welfare checks for our babies.

    March 14, 2011 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  9. Brian Irwin

    It makes me feel so much better to hear that the lobbyists are telling congress nuclear power is safe. It was so obvious that Japan's nuclear facilities were not...

    March 14, 2011 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  10. Bill from GA

    I wonder how nuclear energy compares to wind and solar if the risk is factored in? Power companies should be required to do a cost analysis considering insurance for disaster, probable cost of Uranium, and long-term storage (deadly for how many years?? 10,000? 50.000? 100,000? Storage is a problem left unanswered.)

    Wind and solar might be a bargain.

    In Georgia, the power company got a rate hike to pay for a plant not even certified yet. We rate-payers get the risk, Southern Company gets the profit. Guaranteed percent of cost is profit. It's easy, when Big Business can buy all the politicians they need.

    March 14, 2011 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  11. Qev

    Screw the potential for loss of lives... there's MONEY to be made here.

    March 14, 2011 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  12. Ron

    "...Alex Flint, a top lobbyist for the Nuclear Energy Institute, told CNN that the industry's immediate goal was to give worried lawmakers as much information as possible." Oops! I think he must have meant, "...as much spin as possible."
    And one more thing. "I would hope leaders here would not try to take advantage on an opportunity to demagogue an issue and appeal to the worst, appeal to the fears in people," Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, told CNN. A Republican said this? After Republicans have been appealing to the fears in people constantly for 2 years? Give me a break!

    March 14, 2011 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  13. Liberal4Obama

    Read My Lips: No Nuclear Plants !

    March 14, 2011 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  14. Danny Spencer

    Too funny – Like rats in a sinking ship Lobbyists for the nuclear energy industry invade. First they are going to say it was an "act of God" then they are going to say it was the japanese fault for building the GE made nuclear reactor in the way of a Tsunami.
    Then they are going to say – It cant happen here in the states because things like this dont happen in the USA.

    March 14, 2011 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  15. Mikey

    Now, there's a source for unbiased information – the lobbyists for the nuclear power industry. They probably would have said that the accident in Japan was "impossible" the day before it happened.

    March 14, 2011 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  16. anthony

    Hey lobbyists.. go tell it to the folks in Japan...

    "Radiation levels up; fire at 4th reactor
    Radiation levels at a damaged nuclear power plant increased, and anyone within a 30-kilometer radius should remain indoors, an official said" – Current CNN Cover Story

    March 14, 2011 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  17. Aaron

    Why are the lobbyists bothering talking about it and putting their standard spin on the safety of nuclear plants? They should just pay out the "contributions" to the legislators as usual, then they'll get what they want, as usual.

    March 14, 2011 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  18. Debbie from Arizona

    I think that nuclear energy should still be pursued, but they also need to step back and look at these facilities that are located in earthquake prone areas. They need to take a good hard look at what happened in Japan and make sure that the same thing does not happen here in the event of a major earthquake.

    March 14, 2011 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  19. Squigman

    Big money goes around the world. So what if you glow in the dark, or have several apendages that appear from nowhere. Just drink the cool-aid and smile. Bend over and cry. The money and bunkers built for your congressperson, will be there to save their lives. Why worry?

    March 14, 2011 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  20. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It is something that needs to be a part of the energy equation for this country. There are ways to make it safer, but it is fairly safe now.

    March 14, 2011 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  21. dane

    I read the story. Leadership has failed world wide. I am Legend!

    March 14, 2011 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  22. Sgt Schultz

    Good luck with that spin job. Do NOT build any nuke sites in earthquake fault regions period. Probably not a good idea to build them right on the coast for that matter due to hurricane & tsunami events.

    March 14, 2011 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  23. Russ

    A Republican talking about avoiding demagoguery. Not mentioned in the article, the ghouls of irony's past followed him around in the chamber.

    March 15, 2011 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  24. GI Joe

    I guess they do - Tennessee's Lamar gives a lot of contracts to one Nuclear Group, and GETS lots of money for his campaigning. No wonder he was pushing the crappy systems on TV. VOTE HIM OUT - I DON'T WANT HIS CANCER AFFECCTING MY GRANDCHILDREN.

    March 15, 2011 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  25. BeverlyNC

    Better check the facts if a Republican is speaking. They are expert liars but terrible leaders. To protect their corporate nuclear buddies who contribute to their campaigns they are LYING about the nuclear disaster in Japan. Two reactors have exploded, radiation has been released, and more than 185K people have been evacuated. Now that the 2nd reactor has exploded, people have been moved 30 miles out and most workers have been removed from the nuclear plant. It is a HUGE disaster and now ranks 2nd to Cheronybl. Sen Alexander is LYING, FOX is LYING to the People about this disaster. They have a personal financial motive to lie to you about it. People were hurt at Three Mille Island – the infant mortality rate increased by 40%, cancer rates went up higher than normal, local livestock were sick and died and other issues arose. Leave it to Republicans to LIE. They care about no one but themselves and their corporate buddies who buy elections for them. SHAME ON ALEXANDER AND BECK FOR LYING ABOUT THE JAPAN NUCLEAR DISASTER!!!!!

    March 15, 2011 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
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