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. Taru Manyanga

    Isn't it ironic that the GOP are practising selective amnesia. They have been all over the news accusing Obama of socialising the economy following the example of Europe, now all of a sudden France's policies are the greatest in the world because of an issue this party seems to identify with. Its a shame.

    April 25, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  2. Peter

    What Alexander fails to tell you is that the nuclear option in France was only achieved at the cost of personal liberty. There were huge demonstrations against nuclear power at the time and the then socialist/communist government overruled all opposition.

    The US would experience turmoil orders of magnitude greater if the same thing was attempted here – quite apart from the fact that it takes between 10 and 25 years to bring a single new nuclear power plant on-stream, by which time it would be too late to be of any use to anyone.

    April 25, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  3. SRB

    So what do we do with the waste ? Bury it and let the next generation deal with it. Isn't that what you said about the budget from Obama. Well GOP if the waste does leak the monies used to clean up a nuke disaster will cost more then his budget.

    April 25, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  4. Fred

    Cool – they agree with one of Obama's ling standing positions!

    Of course if Obama proposes it they will have to say no because that's what they do – even when it is a c complete reversal of a position they previously had.

    April 25, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  5. Carlos Lynch

    So where do you put the radioactive waste?

    April 25, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  6. mwm

    The problem with the republicans is that they lack a plan, they lack common sense, they lack rational thoughts and they lack the ability to understand the needs of our country. At present, the republicans are the "NO" party. They prefer to act as antagonists and negative thinkers. The republican platform is to cling to guns and religion, ignore science and act as idiots.
    The dems and Obama have a plan for the future. The republicans have nothing to offer. Obviously, they are acting as angry losers. And, that is exactly what republicans are.

    April 25, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  7. David

    Not saying that Nuclear isn't cheap, but it ain't cheap to store, or build. On top of that, we're discouraging other nations from building their own nuclear plants. And lastly, I find using "American" wind or "American" solar more appealing than building more nuclear plants using "American" uranium coming from even more "American" mines.

    April 25, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  8. renobill

    A Republican with a progressive idea. Someone call Ripley!!

    April 25, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  9. Andy

    Build the nuke plants. Drill offshore and Alaska. Tell the Saudis to pound sand.

    We are building windmills because GE has the contract. The same GE who owns NBC, better known as the official mouthpiece for the Obama administration. In addition, all this green crap is just that, crap. Those new lightbulbs we have to install? Drop one and it is a bio hazard. In addition they are made by GE. Guess where? in China!!!!

    By building nuke plants and drilling we will create millions of jobs and new economies. We can get back to the business of manufacturing, where unions can once again flourish.

    April 25, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  10. Nevada Voter

    I'm sorry.
    Did I fall asleep for a hundred years or something?
    How is it possible that a Republican is seriously asking the American people to look to the French for solutions to global warming, energy independance, and environmental cleanliness?

    Obviously, we must make enormous changes.
    But, the Republicans are really out of their minds if they think they'll be able to convince the American voters that they are the party who will effectively make those changes.
    It's like they think we've all forgotten what they've been about for all these years! They're wishing collective amnesia for all of us!

    April 25, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  11. m smith

    Sounds like the repos worrie more about France and getting their dig's in at the democrats than the American public. I guess this is the next item to complane about since no one is listening to them any way. I believe we are looking at nuclear energy and have not ruled it out. Lets see how popular it is if a plant wants to build in some repos district. How about one in Utah where Romney lives???? Or in Lamars district?

    April 25, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  12. Billy

    Great idea. The only problem is we really do need to find a good place to store spent fuel.

    April 25, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  13. Al, CA

    GOP can still give perceived comfort to these poor, cheated, low educated, highly religious folks who make some 30% of our population – but this comfort comes with a price tag: Trust GOP and you will feed crooks. With better education GOP base will gradually reduce to 1% that it deserves.

    April 25, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  14. Jason

    It's hilarious that the GOP uses the French as a scapegoat for every policy that they don't like, but they have no shame in using them for policies they do like.

    April 25, 2009 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  15. Ben Joplin

    Nuclear energy is the best answer-of course-of course-of course.

    But–The American public is so paranoid about nuke accidents that all

    April 25, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  16. Lee in TN

    I find it ironic that Lamar Alexander, who has voted against American industry every time he gets a chance to outsource something, would invoke the term of "American-made nuclear power". I guess he hasn't figured out how to outsource that yet. The only bright spot when talking about Lamar Alexander is, he is the second worst senator from Tennessee next to Bob Corker.

    April 25, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  17. mark

    just shut it already! about 99.9% of Republicans really think the earth was made in 7days and oil renews about every 100 years.

    You guys had your time in power you effed it up now just go away already!

    April 25, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  18. Dan L in Roanoke, Va

    I know about the fact that it SEEMS a good source of energy but the spent fuel, even though used up for energy (except for possibly making bombs), will be safe to hold in only 100,00 years. (Is that what is meant by WMD?) Turbines & solar power still seems a safer and better solution. The French also had the Mageno (spelling) line.

    April 25, 2009 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  19. Eric

    I don't like it when people look at things like this guy is doing. Nuclear uses so much water and it is such a dangerous thing to have around, both due to meltdowns and terrorist attacks. Why should we build these monstrous plants that cost so much to build? Also, these plants have to be constantly kept up due to the fact that a meltdown could cause serious problems for the workers, the surrounding towns and the environment. I know we haven't had one in a long time, but that doesn't mean they don't happen. Anyways, my instincts tell me that we should harness what nature gives us. That is the most economical way to get cheap energy. I mean, any city or town along the coast could use tides year round, any place that is windy could harness winds and any place could use solar. I mean, it seems like with all the smart minds in this country, we should be able to figure a way that even people along rivers and standing bodies of water could use the water somehow for energy. If we would just spend the money to develop the technology and then own it we would be cruising. Honestly, I don't think people are even trying to do the right thing. Nuclear is not good. Only innovation will free us, I think.

    April 25, 2009 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  20. SNAPPA

    So, now the party that villified France for not helping invade Iraq by allowing American planes to fly over its air space (remember "freedom fries") now want the US to emulate them? My how times have changed.

    April 25, 2009 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  21. R. Roger Beck, Scottsdale, AZ

    All nuclear plants are not the same. France's designs do not result in the amount of nuclear by-products that mar America's design. I'll stick with wind and solar for two reasons; one, we can create more jobs for American workers and two, our electricity grid is far different from France's. The national grid that will be built for the U.S. will enable the average homeowner to sell excess electricity back to the grid, thus adding a little private enterprise incentive. I like that.

    April 25, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  22. Mom in NC

    France has nuclear power because thier socialist government paid for it – is our government now going to subsidize Nuclear even further? Current energy policy will pay for half of the construction of new plants, and yet private companies aren't building new plants.....hmmmm... why is that?? Because they aren't profitable!!

    So the Republican party wants us to force an unsustainable (where will we get the Uranium?? what will we do when it runs out too??), unprofitable, and (oh yeah) hazardous energy on private companies. Sounds like the free market too me!?! Now who's a socialist?

    April 25, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  23. Yvette Schultenover

    I do not agree with nuclear power as an alternative because of the disposal, for one thing, the safety issues for another and do think there are many, many more alternatives that are being and can be pursued that are better for all humanity in the long run.

    April 25, 2009 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  24. The Big Sandwich

    I wonder which big corporation is getting the contracts for these plants? That has to be the only reason the repubs are pushing for nuclear power. The party of no is now the party of yes...if you have enough money?

    April 25, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  25. Mari( maybe one of my comments will be posted)

    One day, not too far in the future the GOP will be once again proven ........ wrong.

    They just......... don't.........get..........it.

    We must be good steward's of God's gift and creation......... EARTH.

    April 25, 2009 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
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