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. Michigan

    Yeah, and the French are shipping all that waste to Russia. Should we send ours to Tennessee? I'm sure your constituents won't mind the dangerous rail shipments, the huge holes in the ground, or the centuries of radioactive waste in THEIR community.
    If we use less, we don't need to "find more." Republicans want to drill and mine their way out of the energy crisis, but never want to help find ways to conserve! We see right through you, Senator.

    April 25, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  2. fj

    i suppose sen. alexander is going to allow all of the spent nuclear fuel rods to be stored in tenn.?

    i thought not.

    nukes are not the answer.

    April 25, 2009 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  3. Rick Beagle

    We can not even regulate our financial institutions with any reasonable amount of effectiveness, how do we propose to insure that the public isn't placed at risk by unscrupulous business people who care more for their profits than the people they serve?

    Until, we as a country, can get it through our collective skulls that regulations and government actually have a purpose then this suggestion is simply a major disaster in the making.

    April 25, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  4. Alan

    Nuclear power is safe, cheap, readily available and carbon free. I'm not a Republican but they've got this exactly right. If you want to end human-caused contributions to global warming the answer is nuclear. If the US switches to plug-in hybrids recharged by carbon free nuclear power we can essentially be free of reliance on foreign oil. By the way 5 hours out of every 24 hours is already brought to you by nuclear power. 100% nuclear is the answer.

    April 25, 2009 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  5. Mike Cooper

    Nuclear power would be a no-brainer...except for all that inconvenient toxic waste. I will be an passionate supporter of nuclear power just as soon as there is a federal nuclear waste repository to store the waste in. I didn't hear any mention of that in this latest Republican attempt at relevance.

    After decades of screaming Not-in-My-Backyard, over Yucca, it looks as if if Nevada might actually have a point; Yucca Mountain is a little too close to the water-table. Despite this, there will almost certainly be no new search for a alternate site because no senator, including the Republican ones, want to risk have it end up in their backyard. This congressional cowardice in my opinion completely invalidates nuclear power as an American energy source.

    And maybe this is the partisan in me, but I can't help thinking that this latest push to go nuclear is at least partially motivated by the opportunity to accuse Harry Reid of putting his states' interest before country. He is, but no more so than the rest.

    April 25, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  6. Larry

    Another Republican Joke ,...

    April 25, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  7. Gene Venable

    I'm ok with more nuclear plants, and I'm a Democrat. It sounds like a useful way to improve the infrastructure of the US.

    April 25, 2009 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  8. Andy W

    Hear hear GOP. Finally you have made a statement that has some common sense behind it. The answer is wind, solar AND nuclear. It's also time for Harry Reid to bite the bullet for the good of the nation and quit obstructing Yucca Mountain–which will be a key component to increasing nuclear power.

    April 25, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  9. jewel

    President Obama needs to put energy at the top of his list of things that need to get done. Our economy and way of life depends on people that are not our friends–that's a scary thought.

    April 25, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  10. Ron

    It wouldn't make any difference if electricity was .001 cents a killowatt, the people who run it would find a way to rob the people! My light bill is 350.00 dollars a month, and thats for running my household. I'm on social Security and I only get 1200. a month. People in America are totally convinced that utility companies and the government are out to destroy the people. Problem is, nothing the people can do about it. With the amount of senior citizens still around, How do you think we can afford utility bills ths high. By the time I pay 700.00 a monthe for all my utilities, put gas in my car, it usually leaves me with about 200.00 a month for food. How many politicians could live on 1200.00 a month?

    April 25, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    it takes years to build one of these plants and would be an easy target for terrorists to attack. the cost is enormous as well. we have to many other opportunities that would be much cheaper.

    April 25, 2009 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  12. andrew

    lets see nothing the gop says has any traction so this is the flavor of the week. as soon as boehner gets out of the spray tan bed he will let the gop what is on the menu for next week. cantor will then attend another briyttany spears concert and proclaim the gop is relevant again. wow you right wingers are in for along haul with the nim rods who are your leaders. gop i have to admit it thanks for the laughs!!

    April 25, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  13. Myassis Dragon

    Wow I had no idea how much the GOP was in awe of France!!! The party of no wants 100 more nuclear power plants. How many nuclear power plants are in Tennessee anyway? Lets build several in your state and see what happens first. Then you can sell power to Kentucky and West Virginia and eliminate your state debt. Lead the way Senator. Isn't France, the country you are so enamored of a Socialist state?

    April 25, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  14. Brad

    While I don't have a problem with more nuclear power plants, we have to think this through very carefully. First, what about waste disposal? Second, let's not be stupid and put nuclear plants in either Tornado Alley (unless they are underground) or on top of an earthquake fault, such as those that exist on the West Coast.

    April 25, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  15. frederick

    i just think republicans have no credibility. 8 years in office 8 years to put their policy in place 8 years to raise the minimum wages, no raise, 8 years to lower taxes. taxes not lowered, 8 years to help small business by lowering the capital gains tax which was suppose to help small business hire more people. it did not work. now since president obama in office. the republican care so much about higher tax, jobs, health care ect. you people make me sick. this tea party crab where was the tea party 4 years ago (no credibility) if you republican is so worry about higher taxes just remember president bush took us into iraq and afganistan and both of these wars cause billions and billions of dollar. the republican have no problem speending tax dollars on wars but oh god forbid they spend any tax dollars on the american people. do me a favor anyone take a survey of all the people who attended these so call tea party and tell me how many were republicans, how many were white people and how many makes over $150,000 a year. i think some of you people just want to complain about somethng. whats puzzling me is why now, what so different than 5 or 6 years ago. where were all of this out rage 4 years ago. just be honest with your self. these tea party are just left over anger from mccain supporters who feel they have nothing left to do but complain not help but complain. oh and one more think. all of you mist a day of work to protest but you care about jobs yea right

    April 25, 2009 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  16. Charles Zindel

    If you want more clean fuel for electricity or to just burn, get coal gasification, its proven (1984) Woodriver, Illinois power co.A-C did it.
    Let's face it The Democrats don't want to get more power they would rather get their Al Gore Cap & Trade excise Tax through. A wisconsin power co. is quoting 16.00 per month excise tax with cap n trade.Global warming is at most a farce, plants need all the Co2 that we can produce. We can grow more food with higher Co2 in the attmosphere.
    Most credible sceinentist will tell you that we are in a global warming period right now and will continue for a number of years.

    April 25, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  17. Tony in Maine

    With the Republican inclination for deregulation of business in order to maximize profits, nuclear power is probably not the best solution.

    Also wondering, is Alexander offering a Tennessee site to store spent fuel?


    I thought not.

    April 25, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  18. Steve in Louisville

    Sure. Republicans have all the answers on energy policy. Just look how well Dick Cheney's secret energy task force did! RePIGlicans also deny global warming, sign off on torture, start wars on false pretenses, vote like a bunch of lock-step Nazis and then act like they're the only true Americans.

    But we should trust 'em on energy.

    April 25, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  19. arthur stowe

    americans don't know how to build nukes.

    the french do:

    all their plants have the same design.

    they don't build them on fault lines

    April 25, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  20. Tariq

    I understand the Chernobyl scare but that was decades ago....if France can do it effectively and safely, surely we can do it!

    It may be challenging at first, but the point is to have diversity in energy sources and to not completely depend on oil from people who do not particularly care for us

    April 25, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  21. LW

    After watching Wolf B's interview with Robert Gibbs regarding Pres. Obama's first 100 days, I am now making a pledge that I won't be watching CNN for the next 100 days. I don't watch Fox news because I remember their behaviour after 9/11. Everyone was a terrorist, therefore anyone who supports the divisive agenda of the republican party, I don't have time for. As a Canadian, one will wonder, why is America's politics any of my business, but we share so much in common, that we are affected by your decisions (Napolitano's crazy comment about terrorists coming for Canada) good or bad.
    Therefore if I wish to listen to the talking points of Rush Limbaugh, I tune my radio to stations which air his awful diatribe, yet since BO's election, CNN has become the avenue for every right wing talking head. Every commentator seem to be republican. Sad. I guess the moderator will censor my post, but so be it. My voice will have been heard by even the moderator, and my absence by Neilsen.

    April 25, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  22. A.G.

    They should go ahead and vote for his energy plan. He has included all forms of independent energy. There is no one solution, it will have to be a combination. Since they don't like him shaking hands with Chavez., perhaps they should get behind energy independence so we don't have to deal with him or the Saudis.

    April 25, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  23. Jinny Doll

    And bury the waste in TN, Lamar... that's not exactly "clean" energy

    April 25, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  24. Peter

    I can't believe democrats like lamar alexander are trying to force us to be a socialist nation like france. france is cowards so they shouldn't be emulated. in the usa we burn coal, get used to it.

    April 25, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  25. Judi

    Show us where there is true recycled nuclear energy technology? Tell how long waste is held in tanks or other storage places? How much danger is this material to this countries security? As far as I know France gets rid of most of its waste to other countries.
    The Republicans have denied global warming, pollution etc. They have been dragged kicking and screaming.
    Newt Gingrich is still in denial. if it was up to conservatives we would be using feather tips to write with. They believe in themselves and to hell with everyone else.
    Liberals realize it takes all of us together to make this a better world.

    April 25, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
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