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

GOP goes nuclear in policy pitch

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/25/art.lamaralexander.youtoube.jpg caption="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."


“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. gewe

    nuclear plants= disaster wating to happen coming to your nieghbor hood

    April 25, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. Ray Fisher

    The US needs to embrace Hydrogen as our new freedom fuel just as the rest of the world is busy converting. The only issue now is who will profit???

    April 25, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. 29% of Americans are TRAITORS for wanting America to FAIL and 71% of Americans to SUFFER!

    Uh, where was this suggestion for the last 8 years. Repubs had controll of both house of Congress and the WH.

    But wait, that would have broken the stranglehold that big oil has on the American public.

    The shrub, who was neck deep in the oil industry, would never give up corporate profits on Wall Street just to build nuclear plants to help the average American.

    What was I thinking?

    April 25, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. Jerry

    Nuclear power is the only way to go. Clean energy and American made.

    April 25, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  5. JB

    And where will we store all the nuclear waste? Sean Hannity's house?

    April 25, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. Ashley

    I am a Democrat and a huge Obama supporter. But I agree 100% that we need to be looking at safe nuclear power. Finally...an ACTUAL proposal from a Republican. I've been waiting for one for months! Woohoo!

    April 25, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  7. Minnesota against John McSame

    Lets start by building a nuclear plant behind his home.

    April 25, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. Silence Dogood

    That's a great idea Senator Alexander! So.... we can put a buncha these plants in Tennessee, right?

    April 25, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  9. PULEEEZZZ!! lets tell some truth

    OF COURSE the republicans would come up with Nuclear power.. Thats just perfect for them..I think all the plants should be built in ALASKA next to where Sarah Palin lives.. I bet she would just say YOUBETCHA!

    April 25, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  10. katiec

    At what cost.? The safety and disposal of nuclear waste is still a great question.
    We are destroying our planet with uncensored power and this must be given great attention before implimentation.

    April 25, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  11. chad in avery, ca.

    not often that i agree with a republicant.
    but this is one of those moments.
    nuclear power is needed along with solar, wind and other clean energy sources.
    nuclear power is scary to some but we do need to get rid of dirty coal wich is by far the worst polluter of our energy sources.

    April 25, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  12. Debbie

    We can no do things out of Political influence. We need a good preparation to go nuclear, just like the word suggests it is very risky!

    April 25, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  13. I Am The Great And Powerful Rush Of Oz

    And the nuclear waste goes . . . where?

    April 25, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  14. LouAZ

    Guess the Frenchies just built all their plants since Obamaram took office, because during the eight years of Republican control of Congress and 8 Bush years, they never said ONE WORD about Nuclear being a good idea. Johnny come lately again.
    Most amazing is how really out of touch they continue to show themselves. The earth is NOT flat anymore Repubs !

    April 25, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  15. Drew

    Republicans embracing a foreign concept, let alone from 'Old Europe,' moreover, let alone from France. ??? You mean they actually think that some countries can actually do things better than US? Wow. Maybe they are, indeed, trying to stop their slouch toward irrelevance.

    April 25, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. Flex

    The state of Tennessee doesn't seem to be a leader for energy solutions, or a leader of anything. Why does the GOP insist on using dangerous energy sources, such as oil, and nuclear energy?

    Sun, wind and water, seem to be the most natural, abundant, and safest means of energy production for our country, and I'm willing to spend a little more money to use it.

    I'm not wealthy, either!

    April 25, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  17. Dave in Nevada

    Remember Republicans........nu'-cu-lar

    April 25, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  18. Flipper

    Alexander brings up a more important point. When you are hyper-focused on only one type of energy (such as wind, solar,etc...) and are irrationally hostile towards other sources of energy (oil, clean coal, natural gas, nuclear, etc...) like many Democrats are, then you are doing more harm to the country than good.

    Everyone knows that clean, renewable sources of energy will eventually replace traditional sources of energy; however, that is still in the future. Until we reach that moment when renewable sources of energy can meet the modern demands of Americans, we need to explore ALL forms of energy in the interim. We need to search for oil and natural gas, we need to use more nuclear power, and we need to do this in an environmentally friendly way.

    It is possible to research and develop new, cleaner technologies while producing more oil, natural gas, and nuclear energy in the process. Yes, the U.S. can walk and chew gum at the same time. I've actually seen it.

    The current administration's approach of "it's our way or the highway" is counter-productive and basically precludes any hope for serious bipartisanship and productive compromises.

    April 25, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  19. Jackalope

    Of course you would expect the Republicans to advocate an energy source like nuclear, which would make each and all of us dependent on a handful of large corporations, and ultimately benefit the wealthy, rather than advocate a solution such as solar, which would allow each of us to reduce our monthly expenses by installing panels on the roofs of our homes. Sorry, GOP, I'm following Obama's lead by taking advantage of the solar incentives to install the solar panels on my home. When the plug-in electric hybrid cars become readily available in a year or two, I'll be saving on gasoline bills as well.

    April 25, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  20. steve fielder

    It's amusing to watch a high-ranking member of the GOP praising anything done by the French, and, if memory serves, isn't there an entire river in France contaminated with radioactive waste to the point that a person couldn't even eat any fish caught in it?

    April 25, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  21. T Mckinley

    Wasn't it just a few days ago when some Republicans were accusing President Obama of wanting to turn the U.S.A. into France?

    This is just another example of Republcan double standards; "When WE do it, it's OK, when THEY do it, it's wrong," Hypocrites!

    April 25, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  22. Ancient River

    It is extremely expensive to build these plants which have a life of only 4- tp 50 years, when there will be the expensive problem of spent plants. The problem of where to store waste also remains, although France has a recycle program that is currently not condoned in the US at this point. What this will achieve is alot of money in the pockets of the builders and maintainers of these plants and much hif\gher energy costs for the rest of us. Power in Europe is very expensive. And it will not solve the problems with C02 emissions which are threatening the planet. Unlike France, we have abundant clean energy sources to develope in the US..

    April 25, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  23. J.P.

    It's pretty freaking bad when Republicans are longing for the fiscal conservatism OF THE FRENCH, for crying out loud.

    April 25, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  24. JFK

    Suddenly Republicans want to use the French as a good example of something for a change. Just because they have nuclear does not mean we need to create more power plants that generate more hazardous waste we still cant dispose of properly. This is more idiotic ideas from an out of touch party. Its costly and dangerous and just plain stupid to build more of these. We need CLEAN renewable fuels! This party should go away if they are going to continuously waste our timewith ill conceived ideas.

    April 25, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  25. Mike in Vancouver

    Well. Finally, a Republican policy point that makes sense! I am appreciative not only of the content but of the tone of this message. I believe this is the kind of thing Obama is looking for when asking for new ideas and reasonable dialogue within political discussion

    April 25, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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