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. Gregory T. from Wisconsin

    It is about time the GOP started putting forward real ideas to deal with global warming.

    April 25, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  2. davetharave

    NO !! NO !!!! This is NOT what we need, stupid Republicans. We need cheap, totally safe and very inexpensive (after initial investment) wind and solar energy. After the windmills and mirrors are up it's free forever. Nuclear is dangerous, dirty and leaves behind very toxic waste. Another thing, we in this country haven't been able to decide for over 20 years now where to put our nuclear waste, no state wants it so it's going to pile up in very unsafe locations and poison the land for hundreds of years. This is why the people have totally rejected the Republican party, they keep coming back to the same old tired ideas. The reason is they and their cronies in the business world won't make one tenth the money on green energy as they would building huge nuclear plants all over the country.

    April 25, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. Ivan

    Sunds good, but qill the French come here and build safe ones for us? Or China, Taiwan, Korea, India?

    April 25, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  4. Sam in Tennessee

    Alexander is a time warp from the past. Between him and Rush Limbaugh, I can not tell which one is crazier. Alexander fails to tell CNN's listeners that eating fish from lakes in East Tennessee is considered dangerous due to the radiation exposure caused by the nuclear plants.

    April 25, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  5. mike

    BS Obama supports nuclear energy. One of his first acts was to shut down Yucca Mountain. This is where we are to store all reactor waste. But in a pay off to Harry Reid (D Sen from NV where Yucca Mtn is) Obama caves. Where do you think waste nuclear fuel rods are safer – 1) burried deep in the NV desert or 2) stored in cooling ponds next to reactors? A simple explosion could cause that mess to be a nice RDD. It's not the reactors that are a concern it's the waste and we have a way to deal with it. So like normal Democratic administrations Obama supports "research" just don't actually do anything!!!

    April 25, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  6. JimC

    There might be a solution to the above stated problems. This is a good time to revive the cancelled development program for the "Integral Fast Reactor". It is claimed to use uranium fuel more efficiently, can use existing nuclear waste as fuel and its waste products have a much, much shorter half life than conventional waste. Developed in the US of A.
    Google it for more information.

    April 25, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  7. Libertarian

    Republicans starting to sound a lot more like Democrats. Hrmmmm.
    Who was the party that ran the country for the past 8 years then?

    Oh...and those spent plutonium rods....we're gonna bury them in your State Mr. Alexander. How do you vote now?

    April 25, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  8. Logan

    For once, I actually agree with a republican. Now, don't get me wrong, I think we should be investing in wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources. However, nuclear energy would serve as another path to energy independence. I support nuclear energy.

    April 25, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  9. Maestroh

    "The Messiah" already gave us his energy plan: air up your tires.

    April 25, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. Joe - Chicago

    As one who has studied nuclear engineering, I've a lot to gain by a big boom in nuclear energy. That said, I don't think its a good idea. The toxic waste it produces is too much of a hazard. It is not only radioactive, but highly toxic, and since they are heavy metals, their toxicity will not eventually go away like their radioactivity will.

    The potential for nuclear accident is always there, the chances are small, but always present. The more nuclear energy we use the statistical likely hood of a catastrophic nuclear accident goes up. The Chernobyl disaster is a sobering reminder of an event humanity can never repeat.

    Finally, last time I looked at it, which I admit was about ten years ago, the per kilowatt hour cost of nuclear energy was much higher than that of conventional power plants. Maybe technology has changed and made the industry more cost effective. But I suspect that France's nuclear industry, much like their aerospace industry, exists thanks to large government subsidies.

    April 25, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  11. Larry from RI

    All nuclear plant are heavily subsidized and we can't get rid of the waste.
    All nuclear power plants are built by the same big corporations who are part of the status-quot and are oligarchies.

    Just look who is pushing it – the party of corporate interests over people.

    It is high time to let others with better ideas lead the way!

    April 25, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  12. Ron

    Absolutely correct, Lamar!

    April 25, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  13. George B.

    I thought necons and members of the Republican party held France in contempt (remember Freedom Fries?) and now they are holding up France, a ...gasp ... EUROPEAN COUNTY ... as an example for us to follow? LOL!

    April 25, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  14. Carole

    Blah, blah, blah.......this is sad. I remember the good old days before the party called a Republican Party did have good ideas. Then after Newt and the Contract with America came the hate and fear campaigns.

    Let's save our planet please!

    April 25, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  15. Freed_From_W

    GOP 2007: "Terrorists are everywhere so you should be in constant fear that they could somehow get nuclear material!!"

    GOP 2009: "We want nuclear plants everywhere."

    April 25, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  16. deb

    but i thought you guys hate everything about the french??

    April 25, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  17. Naldo

    Sure, Senator, we'll just dump all the radioactive waste in your home state of Tennessee. I'm sure Graceland will appreciate having that warm glow at night.

    April 25, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  18. Wayne

    How ironic–Now the GOP wants to imitate France rather than making fun of France?

    April 25, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  19. Allen N Wollscheidt

    Lamar – Let us start with one of those nuclear plants next door to YOUR home ! !

    Then we can talk about 99 more !

    Oh, then there is the issue of siting the reprocessing plants you are so anxious to build. Perhaps across the street from your home ?

    April 25, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  20. John Rollins

    Well my fellow Republicans, if you all had showed the slightest interest in alternative energy and energy independence when Congress and the Presidency were under your leadership, you might have a speck of credibility. But alternative energy and energy independence were NEVER a priorities of the Republicans on a national level. Knocking solar and wind power, the technology of which has developed into economic viability in spite of your disinterest, is only going to make you look more foolish and useless. I'm just waiting for you all to retire so we can get some new, fresh conservatives in who understand how to put together a healthy, sound infrastructure for energy independence.

    April 25, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  21. Steve, Columbia SC

    Let me try again..........I suggest your lead line replace "goes" to "promotes" to avoid any appearance of dissing the Republican Party.

    April 25, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  22. Bill ~ Down on the Bayou

    Where are you frigging idiots going to store the waste from all these nuclear power plants you want to build?
    Can you store it at the home of the great save the planet guru(algore)?
    Can you store it at the home of that freak living in the White House?
    You people have all lost control of your faculties. you may succeed in destroying humanity but you don't have what it takes to fool mother nature.

    April 25, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  23. j.g. east

    I donot understand why the us is not seeking nucular power. It could surpass all the other alturnative powers we are looking at. jgeast

    April 25, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  24. Andy Pham

    In light of energy crisis, enviroment, health, and economy issues caused by fossil fuels, we need to have a urgent plan to address this problem.
    We ought to be independent from foreign oil, and act faster on clean and renewable energy programs.
    Here are some facts: Transportation in the US consumes almost half
    of energy needed in America . If we have a clean source of electricity
    from nuclear power plants to provide power for transportation vehicles,
    then almost half of gasolin problem will be solved.
    We can not affort to continue to build more fossil fuels burning plants,
    because it contribute massive amount of green house gas.
    There are some small islands in the Pacific ocean area just disappear due to global warming.
    Change we need: More nuclear power plants in US, along with renewable energy, and conservation will lead us out of oil dependency from Arab countries. A lot of problems ovethere.

    April 25, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  25. Keeping It Real

    The republicans including this character Mr. Alexander have killed all their credibility as it pertains to helping the American people with the exception of their rich counter parts. It is my opinion that majority of the republicans want the president to fail. The fact that they seem to attack him at any given moment, lie about his policies or rather distort the truth and call him a socialist, marxist, communist and even laugh when their friends at Faux News compares the president to Hitler is so discusting that I can barely listen to anything they have to say. The so called modest Republicans should get a back bone and denounce all this hateful rhetoric spewed at the president. Unfortunately I believe most of the republicans would rather that the president fail than for the country to succeed. Whatch what they do and not what they say!

    April 25, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19