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. Nathan

    Makes sense to me! It's refreshing to hear a republican offer an actual plan. Nuclear power can be debated, but at least someone on the other side of the aisle is doing their job, and trying to LEAD rather tha OBSTRUCT.

    April 25, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  2. Sandy Carey

    And, yet another member of the lunatic fringe heard from!

    April 25, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  3. kd

    Great. Now figure out a way to safely dispose of the hazardous waste and I'm convinced.

    Oh, wait... we've been trying to figure that one out for over 60 years.

    Well, GOP, you've got the plan, let's see if you can follow through. Short term answers for elections aren't going to help us when it comes to nuclear energy (or, frankly, for any other short-term idea you've pitched for the past 35 years).

    April 25, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  4. Karen - Missouri

    Ah, will the Republicans NEVER learn? Europe has been cutting back on nuclear. Are we going to dump the nuclear waste in McCain's Arizona?

    It was only a matter of time before the obstructionist Republicans started their whining again. Here we have it. We're so TIRED of hearing them whine and complain. Congress and Presidents have had the chance to change the way we consume energy since the 1970s. Here we have Republicans STILL in the same ole rut.

    April 25, 2009 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  5. Paul

    Lamar Alexander is beholden to the nuclear energy lobby. The Democrats have a much better solution -50 new solar-thermal plants in California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Texas, Colorado, Florida and Georgia and 50 new windfarms in Montana, Wyoming, Texas, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Oklahoma-these have following advantages over uranium:(1)no nuclear waste, (2)three year build instead of 10+ years(3)no terrorist problem, (4)do not have to import Uranium from Africa, Australia, Canada etc or create open pit mines (USA only has 4 % of worlds uranium), (5) mineable uranium will be depleted in less than 100 years (oil &gas on 40-50 years) wheras solar and wind last forever(6) , nuclear plants are more expensive to build and operate than either solar or wind farms. Think solar and wind are in the future and cannot do the job?-there are more than 9 solar-dynamic 250 MW to 500 MW plants under construction in California, Florida and Arizona-these are close to size of potential nuclear plants-we are quadrupling true renewable energy every year, by the time we get nuclear plants approved and built, solar & wind plants will have met the demand -they are cheaper, safer, and less politically objectionable (Do you want a nuclear plant next door?)What they do not have,unlike nuclear, coal, gas and oil, is a large well-funded Washington lobby and they do not have Senators in their back pocket, but give them time....

    April 25, 2009 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  6. js007

    I don't care what technology you use, as long as a cap-and-trade system with teeth is introduced the market will figure out the proper price levels and technology to use. Government can provide some research money but that's about it. Once there is a price for polluting the whole country will mobilize to reduce consumption and create energy from cleaner sources. If nuclear is cost effective then fine, but we should not be providing massive subsidies to them just because they have a good lobby in Washington. If there was a cap on emissions clean energy like wind would not need subsidies.

    April 25, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  7. RD

    So we want to be like the French?

    April 25, 2009 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |

    Again the republicans get it wrong. where will we store all of this necular waste. just what is wrong with solar, wind, sea current. and thermal. we need less necular not more. and with another 100 plants, that is just more terrorist targets. the waste from all this is all ready causing problems with storage. as usual the repub's have no new ideas.

    April 25, 2009 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  9. Justin

    I will trust the Dems on clear energy far more than the republics, but this guy is right on. Wind, solar, geothermal... all great, but investment in nuclear is super important and can provide clear energy on a mass scale. We just need to make sure the spent fuel is deposed up in an equally clean way.

    April 25, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  10. Will

    Suddenly the Republicans want to emulate the French? They had better brand this new energy policy as "Freedom Fission" to get the Toby Keith fans* on board.

    * (Shudder!)

    April 25, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |

    YES to more nuke plants!
    And if it takes the rethuglicants to push it that's fine too.
    One thing that's overlooked in this first decent rethuglicant suggestion: France standardizes on their plants – that's to say they are cookie cutter plants.
    That makes them cheaper and easier to build and maintain and if there is a problem with one they can then fix the problem in ALL the plants at once making for even safter nuke generated power. However standardization on design and construction will be harder to get then agreement on doing more nukes 'cause the GE's, B7W's and Haliburtons of this country will have hissy fits...

    April 25, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  12. Mickey

    Since we are referring to the GOP isn't it spelled and pronounced "nucular".

    April 25, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  13. John

    A single nuclear plant costs anywhere between 2-6 billion dollars and 6-8 years to build. This is not throwing up a shack. This guy acts like building 100 of them is no big deal. There is also no clear way to dispose of the nuclear waste safely. 100 nuclear plants will create a lot of nuclear waste. The long term environmental consequences are problematic. If we lean all the way on nuclear power, as this congressman is suggesting, we will ultimately face many more environmental issues than if we start figuring out how to generate waste-free, renewable energy right now. We know that wind, water, and solar are safe and renewable. It's a better investment than nuclear.

    April 25, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |

    I think the PRESIDENT Obama is doing great job less he trying that on than bush ever did ! that for sure!

    April 25, 2009 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  15. Jason, Los Angeles

    It's disgusting to me the way Alexander is denigrating France over and over. We could learn a great deal from many other nations without resorting to this kind of pandering and insults. I agree that we could be doing more with nuclear power, and I'm glad that the Republicans are finally offering some kind of solution, but leave it to the Right to make it a polarizing issue. Republicans are bad Americans.

    April 25, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  16. Progress_Is_Progressive

    CNN, as usual posting a Republican opinion rant as news without a corresponding rebuttal from the Democrats. CNN, as usual, doing that disgusting Right Wing cheerleading thing they unfortunately have become known for more and more. Bring back the Fairness Doctrine, if you're going to publish this Right Wing rant I want to hear what the Democrats have to say to defend themselves, and what they see as their policy. You know, I faintly remember when CNN was a trusted NEWS ORGANIZATION, but no more.

    April 25, 2009 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  17. Kevin in Atlanta, GA

    Sacre Bleu! The GOP must really be hard up-they're now praising FRANCE!

    April 25, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  18. Give em the waste

    I got a good idea for the repubs who love nuke power...send all the waste to the states where repub governors turned down stimulous money. The feds will then pay them to store it there. Then they get to make some money and get that nuke waste they apparently love so much. It's a win-win for everybody!

    April 25, 2009 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  19. Ex-republican

    is this the "socialist" country that you repugs are so afraid off?
    Tell me more, idiots!

    April 25, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Regarding Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee support for bringing on new nuclear power plants, I wish the GOP senator would stop being counter productive regarding the environment and our quest for clean energy.

    April 25, 2009 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  21. John

    Great for the republicans but, if they are really serious, why don't they agree to take the high level nuclear waste in their states?

    April 25, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  22. Peter E

    I'm laughing my head off. The GOP is the one who wants to follow the French example? They call it socialist when Obama invests your taxpayer money into renewable energy, but they don't consider it socialist if we follow the French example of building nuclear power plants (which are considerably more expensive to build) on your taxpayer money. Hypocrisy alert!

    April 25, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  23. ED Fl

    If you have ever wondered why most of the right wing talking heads are now female it is because the largest group of GOP politicos are the most uninpressive sissified, looking group of SUPPOSED LEADERS this country has seen in my 79 years.would any soldier ,sailor or any military man want to be backed up by BOEHNER, CANTOR OR MConnell. The toughest looking GOP is Kay bailey Hutchinson. Your wimpt butts will be handed to you the next8 yrs unless you get someone in your paerty that represents strengh and integrity.

    April 25, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  24. Aeasus

    nuclear energy= very clean
    nuclear waste = very very nasty

    Figuire out a way to send the waste to burn up at the sun and you have my vote.

    April 25, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  25. Peter E

    Did we just go through a blackhole and emerge in an upside down world? The GOP is advocating that we follow French example instead of their usual pitch of namecalling them as surrender monkeys? Whom they considered to be a bigger enemy than Saddam Hussein? evil? The GOP that thinks ONLY Americans know what's best? The GOP who thought (at least during the Bush years) that America is already perfect and we should love it or leave it? They are now admitting that perhaps some ideas were better figured out by... France?

    April 25, 2009 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
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