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. Steve - Minneapolis

    good point

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

    I ain't no republican but all this makes some sense

    April 25, 2009 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  3. joe

    what a stupid idea! where are we going to put the waste from 100 nuclear plants? put all that waste in Tenn , maybe in his back yard!

    April 25, 2009 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  4. Travis

    I have never understood the fear over nuclear when it is so obviously superior to our current fossil fuel dependency. I'm not saying it's perfect, but as a "stepping stone" technology until we get something better that's actually viable, it is a great alternative.

    April 25, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Are these the same guys who pushed up the military budget to over 530 billion? Want us to be policeman of the world? They tells us to spend money everywhere in the world but in our own country.

    April 25, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  6. Ryan from Texas

    I'm sorry... I don't trust nuclear power plants. I never will. It may be clean, but it's too risky. Meltdown is still possible. I just don't agree with it at all. Sorry, Republicans...you fail.

    April 25, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |

    How much does it coast to build ONE nuclear plant? How big is France? How many do they have? How big is America? How many would we need? How long would it take to finance and build them?

    April 25, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  8. Mike.

    Those who want nuclear powerplants, don't want to live near them.

    April 25, 2009 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  9. shaun

    As recently as last July enriched Uranium leak in a French reactor caused two rivers to be contaminated and the reactor to be closed. The risk of similar accidents coupled with the fact that cost of building such reactors is huge and in the long run it will again require importing radio active elements from foreign countries as dependance on such technology grows means we are in square one.

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

    Oh, now the GOP love the French.
    Nuclear power is not a solution. We should not give terrorists MORE targets to attack. Besides that, there is no place to put the waste.
    Building a nuclear power plant and not knowing where to store the waste is like buying a house and not knowing how you're going to pay for it after it the payment goes up.

    April 25, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  11. Daniel

    Didn't John McCain run against nuclear power during the election? Whats up? GOP changing their platform again to try and swindle some confused moderates out of their votes.

    April 25, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  12. JP

    Coincidentally... Today's news report

    "Le Havre, France — Since 02.00 hours this morning, 20 Greenpeace activists have occupied loading cranes at the French port of Le Havre to prevent 450 tonnes of radioactive uranium waste being loaded onto the Russian freighter the Kapitan Kuroptchev. The activists are occupying cranes on both the dock side and the ship. The waste comes from the Pierrelatte uranium enrichment plant in the Rhone valley and is scheduled to be transported to Russia.

    Greenpeace has launched the protest to expose the thirty year old practice of illegally transporting and dumping nuclear wastes produced in Europe and shipped to Russia. A new report from Greenpeace, “Europe’s Radioactive Secret”, details the illegal nuclear waste trade between Europe’s nuclear industry and the Russian Federation"

    Lamar Alexander needs to know France is embroiled in many nuclear waste dumping cases around the world.

    April 25, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  13. AJ617

    Finally, someone talking about the only real solution to our country's energy problems...nuclear energy. It is the cleanest, safest, most reliable source we have, and there are ENDLESS possibilities. Anyone who says we shouldn't have more nukes has no idea what they're talking about and is ignorant to what nuclear energy is really all about. I'm not a fan of republicans, but this is great. Go Senator Alexander!

    April 25, 2009 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  14. Ben Joplin

    Because of our money hungry press who will print anything to
    sensationalize, for their own profit, any subject that will create a panic
    response in their listeners or readers we have the following:

    If the American public hears the words "nuke accident"
    they start peeing in their pants. Giants, OIL AND GAS, are happy to
    perpetuate this fobia.

    A government, thinking only about re-election, would not dare tackle
    the issue of more Nuke plants. Until our government commits to
    requirements like, "having brains" or like "having a conscious" before
    one becomes a representative "of the people and for the people" this
    nation will stagger along with it's irrisponsible and unscrupulis
    infividuals who have got us into this current mess.

    April 25, 2009 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  15. James Reynold

    Me likey!

    April 25, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  16. Gerry Evans. Smithfield Va.

    Isn't is just too strange that all of republicandom acted as though our country had not a problem or care when George W. Bush was in power.

    NOW, all of a sudden, they are just full of ideas and information on EVERYTHING and anything they think will steal President Obamas thunder.. Their so intent on making him a bad guy, they have lost the sense of part ownership of this country.

    So I say to you Mr. Alexander, get off your republican ass and try to do a FEW good things for this country instead of sitting back yelling because the democrats (who's plates are pretty full) are busy trying to repair the economy.

    I bet IF you would talk nice to President Obama, (instead of hollering about how he just isn't doing things the right way), he might even put YOU in charge of something, like cheap energy. maybe....

    Then you republicans could own something good instead of all those BAD things you own like,(war,bad banks, debt of the country,etc.) So go for it...

    April 25, 2009 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  17. Idiot_Peolosi

    Well Done. The DUMocrats have held up the expansion of nuclear power for years. I can't wait to hear what Idiot Pelosi and Obummer have to say abou this.

    Let's see if Obummer can support a good idea.

    April 25, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  18. manny1955

    obviously, he did not read the President's budget.

    April 25, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  19. Andrew

    go nuclear!

    April 25, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  20. Eyitayo Onifade

    I actually like the republicans offering an alternative plan. The country only benefits when we have several viable options to pick from and mix and match. I don't know if nuclear energy is feasible but at the very least their should be some expansion of its use to meet some of the shortfall.

    April 25, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  21. paul oregon

    oregon had a nuclear power plant up untilla couple years ago when it was dismantled. it was run by portland gen. elec. abount 20 miles from my home. there were some issues abount safety , and the cost of the elec. produced was not as cheap as everyone thought it was going to be. another smoke screen from the party of NO

    April 25, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  22. Howard

    Now how come the republicans didn't do that while they were in charge for the last eight years? maybe it's not such a good idea.

    April 25, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  23. Soonerman


    The party of convience. Now, they want to emulate France. Usually, NEONUTs bash France...

    GOP has one position. If the Dems and the whitehouse are for it, we are against it! That's the only GOP position!

    In reality though, both parties are wrong to fix this debate on our fixed energy needs. Mobile energy (energy/fuel for transportation) should be the focus right now.

    We could build a 1000 nuke plants (right) or 10000 wind farms (left). However, if we don't address our mobile energy needs, nothing will change. We will still be damaging our environment and we would still be beholden to dictators and despots by having to import foreign oil.

    They need to focus on that not fixed energy.

    April 25, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  24. Diane

    Well let's see my question to good old boy republican is this then why the hell didn't the republicans go there after all they were in power and could have done this. Oh well did they even try when they were in power no no no and why real simple people Cheney in his private meeting which he refuses to this day had secret meeting with the big corps. that made it clear real simple folks they would lose money. So my question is this get the answer from Cheney and you will know, oh I know Cheney will never give it up, in other words DUH get a clue people you were lied to by Cheney just like he and Bush lied about everything else.

    April 25, 2009 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  25. Kermit

    Please explain to me why you need to give more "incentives' (aka tax breaks) to companies making record profits to get them to clean up their industry when all they ever do is raise prices to the brink of what people can afford and make lame excuses for why they are doing it. Nuclear energy may be a piece of the solution but more oil, gas and coal is not.

    April 25, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
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