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. aj

    but its ok to let the french out do us on healthcare huh

    April 25, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  2. The Veteran

    I say use all of them, just like President Obama said. Nuclear alone is not the answer. Incentives cost money. Mandates don't. If they are trying to save taxpayer dollars, they should be in favor of mandates.

    Republicans always go for the easy answer. Do they even think hard and deep?

    April 25, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  3. Mark

    I smell Newt Gingrich. This idea makes too much sense to come from the Limbaugh side of the party!

    April 25, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  4. Bob

    FINALLY......A REAL idea "radiating" from the bowels of the GOP.....Leave it to republicans to copy the French......Oh, the irony!!..........

    April 25, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  5. BDub

    Does anyone believe that just because Obama's budget promotes nuclear energy that he will actually DO it? George Soros, Al Gore and the Sierra Club wouldn't want this. It's too good for Americans!

    April 25, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  6. Don

    I applaud Sen. Lamar Alexander stance on understanding the URGENCY of our country not relying on importing foreign energy, and the DIRE NEED for clean, renewable energy for our planet.

    I suggest that we build the VERY FIRST nuclear energy plant in the town that Sen. Lamar Alexander lives in, as an honor to his brilliant understanding of the environment! 😉

    April 25, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  7. SR

    Well, he's right that we need to turn to nuclear power a bit more than we are now.

    But for the Republicans, the answer to the energy future MUST involve a lot of rich people making a lot of money.

    The sun puts out more energy every day than we could use in 20 years - if only we could harness it. But unless the rich people can pad their pockets, the Republicans won't be interested.

    April 25, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. Alex

    Little slow yet again republicans, we like nuclear as well as renewable energy, haven't you been paying attention at all? And again you're being hypocrits, you love to criticize France, but then use their ideas. Your so annoying go away and stop slowing things down!

    April 25, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  9. Carl W. Goss

    What a jerk. Doesn't he Sen. Alexander know Obama is in favor of exploiting nuclear energy? As well as
    other sources of energy?

    Times sure change. Not too long ago, anything French was anathema to most Republicans. Now, all of a sudden, we are told we must look to France for ways to deal with the energy crises.

    And what's this nonsense about a new Manhattan Project? Doesn't he realize that such an investment would cost even more billions than are already being spent by the current administration?

    Or would that sort of governmental expenditure somehow or another not count. Good Lord, these Republicans spend the bulk of their time bemoaning government spending for this or that project, and then have the audacity to propose a project that would cost untold billions more.

    Which means, I guess, that if the GOP proposes a government-funded project it’s just fine. If the Democrats propose a government-funded project, it’s somehow or another a waste of resources. Like (say) volcano monitoring , for example.

    Like I say, Sen. Lamar Alexander is just another GOP jerk, pumping out rhetoric with no basis in reality. Sort of like that wonderful new GOP leader Bobby Jindal. You know, the one who views volcano monitoring as a waste of government resources.

    Christ in a 39 Chevy! How clueless can these people be?

    April 25, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  10. Tom

    Build a thousand.... imagine the jobs... imagine the low cost power...it will drive down all other fuel costs when American power is 100 percent nuclear.

    April 25, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  11. Craig

    Blah, blah, blah, blah. This is supposed to be the "United" States. But it doesn't seem like the republicans want it that way. Get your facts straight. Obama "is" for nuclear and other renewable energy.

    April 25, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  12. B.H.

    Nothing is FREE folks especially Nuclear power plants!
    I would like the French to let the world know where they are dumping all of their Nuclear WASTE! We should be putting more resources into making Fusion possible.

    April 25, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  13. Dickelocker

    Fine. But the Nuclear Waste Storage Facility in Nevada must be on line before we can proceed. How you gonna crack that nut?

    April 25, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  14. Chamorrita, MD

    Republicans are idiots!!! WHY not use SUN and WIND first you bozos it's FREE!!!

    This is WHY Republicans are irrelevant, the don't have a brain!!!

    Please just GO AWAY. Americans want to move forwards, not backwards.

    April 25, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  15. Ted

    so why, Mr Alexander, is it up to the Democrats to push nuclear power? why is it the Republicans can't help put forth a bi-partisan legislation to get it going? It would seem to me that both parties have good ideas and everyone should contribute.

    the big questions about nuclear are costs and time horizon to build. Past administrations, most of which have been republican, have not embraced nuclear power and thus we are well behind the curve on this. figures.

    OK GOP – put up a bill and get some democrats to help and it would be a good thing. Or sit on your butts, do nothing, and then have something to complain about in four years. Don't worry – many of us will remember.

    April 25, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  16. U.S. Common Sense

    It will never happen, even though Obama wants thousands of electric cars on the road within a decade. The only way to get that much electricity (short of using fuel cells) is through nuclear. It's a proven power source, but it isn't "green" enough for the Dems. So instead of cheap reliable power without the carbon emissions that come from coal, we are going to get stuck with expensive intermittent power that comes from wind and solar. It is really a shame.

    April 25, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  17. John from California

    Perhaps the good Senator from Tennessee would also approve of storing high level nuclear waste in his state. The Oak Ridge Valley has lots of space and there are already thousands of workers and scientists knowledgeable in the Nuclear Industry, so it seems like a good spot for storing all our high level waste.

    April 25, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  18. Joel Miller

    Republicans are always looking for ways to tap more profits for big corporations at the expense of working Americans. This is just another one of their con jobs. There are better alternatives to nukes and there are also better ways to structure production, housing, urban development, etc. that will mean a cleaner environment and stronger economy.

    April 25, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  19. heartlight3

    What does France do with the waste from their nuclear plants? I keep hearing that nuclear power will reduce people's electric bills, but who is going to pay the expense of building them? I thought part of the reason we haven't built any new plants for the past 30 years is because they are so expensive to build. What do we plan to do with the waste? I think we would be setting ourselves up for unintended consequences and we don't seem to handle those very well.

    April 25, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  20. big papa

    Nuclear waste disposal is a deadly serious matter, given the fact that its' radioactive by-product remains deadly for ten 10.000 years...

    ...Nobody with ANY ounce of intelligence gives a hoot what unevolved, conservative, confederate Republican'ts suggest...

    ...Alexander is just another Newt ,who's just another Rush, who's just another Cheney...

    ...ALL Republican'ts (and their supporters) should be relegated to the dung heap of society...

    ...time for progressive, intelligent minds to fashion the solutions our society needs to keep the planet ALIVE...

    ...Republican'ts are only about profit, torture, death and destruction, like their lord and master...


    April 25, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  21. Ted Tartaglia

    Senator Alexander has a great idea but the way he proposes it, it sounds like he wants to socialize the energy industry because he implies that the government should built the 100 powerplants in 20 years he proposes. I thought Republicans were supporters of the free market but Alexander seems to be in favor of privatizing the profits and socializing the costs. Perhaps he will clarify his position.

    April 25, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  22. FD

    Republimorons – let's take an idea already circulating through the congress and call it our own. See how great we are? Time for the republiweenies to go away. They should all move to Texas and secede.

    April 25, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  23. Dale

    The Republicans do make some good points. However, what they do is entirely different than what they say. They say "Be financially frugal, not excessive spenders like the Democrats." But what do they do? Start an unneccesary open-ended multi-trillion dollar war in Iraq, and poor the tax dollars into wasteful military programs. They say "Stand up for traditional Christian values." But what do they do? Publicly advocate torture, hold prisoners without charges, legalize shooting tresspassers dead, etc etc. I would vote Republican if what they say was actually what they did.

    April 25, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  24. AMR, Minnesota

    GOP gets something right.

    April 25, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  25. DX in TX

    Senator Alexander, like most Republicans you choose to grand stand in the media. President Obama presented this idea prior to becoming the president of the Unitied States, but during the election you guys were sleep at the helm as you are now....

    God Bless President Obama

    April 25, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
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