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. Mark

    Ah, the nuclear lobby is putting the screws to their Republican toadies once again. I think nuclear power can be used cleanly. But, I don't think the current nuclear power industry is interested in keeping it clean or safe.

    April 25, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  2. Had It

    Dweebs – They want to dictate hurry hurry hurry.

    Obama has already said we will, ONCCE WE FIND SAFE STORAGE!

    April 25, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  3. marcus

    i'm a firm supporter of obama. and, i do believe solar power and wind power should be pursued as fundamental sources of power generation in the US. but, i don't disagree that nuclear power could be, and should be part of the equation in the present. and, i have to say it's quite a relief to see the republicans presenting a legitimate idea, with sound logic, for the first time in the obama administration. however, i'm sure it's not gonna last. they'll be right back to their completely obstructionist philosophy, promoting their failed fiscal and international policies. but, kudos to the republicans for finally having an idea !

    April 25, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  4. Johnson

    What a great Idea..lets put ALL our money into something that produces nuclear waste that can't be safely stored anywhere. What other ways does the GOP want to destroy our planet? ...I'm shocked that the GOP's main argument for nuclear energy is "FRANCE DID IT!", when it was them just a few years ago that changed the name of FRENCH FRIES. Give me a break.

    April 25, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  5. Luis

    What Sen. Alexander fails to state is that nuclear energy (at least in the US) is way more expensive than other electric generating plants, not to mention the fact that no nuclear plant has ever been completed on time and on budget. Imagine trying to build 100 of those immensely complicated power plants! What we really need to do is have Congress put a carbon cap in place, and invest on renewable energy sources such as the ones Sen. Alexander and the rest of the Rethugs are afraid to support. NO TO NEW NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS!

    April 25, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. Craig - Hastings, MN

    I hate to say it but the GOP may be on to something. Biggest problem I see is waste disposal. Overcome that and I say FULL Steam Ahead.

    April 25, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. Patricia

    What a hoot. They revile France whenever they oppose US policy, and now this gratuitous compliment? How about Freedom fries as a source of energy?

    April 25, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. Larry Schluet

    But this would not allow additional taxes to pay for the BO and the liberal democrats give-away programs . . . there woul dbe less money for them to buy votes.

    April 25, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  9. Scott

    So now they're boasting about France and its socialized energy production system and policies? WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THIS PARTY???

    April 25, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  10. CJ

    Ship all the nuclear waste from these new plants to Tennessee.

    April 25, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  11. Larry Schluet

    This is way too much common sense . . . it will not be supported by the liberal democrats . . . probably because it does not support their ideals of hatrid and controlling the weak people on welfare.

    April 25, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  12. One-Senator Steve in MN

    OK –

    The GOP hates France.
    Now they love France.
    And they never noticed that Obama has ALWAYS been open to nuclear as part of our energy future.


    C'mon, R-clowns, ixnay on the partisan rancor. We're very, very tired of it. So try to play nice. And, occasionally, come up with either an honest criticism OR a new idea. Both welcome.

    And quit the obstructionist legal funding of Coleman's doomed recontructionism on the MN election. Yes, we can see through that, too.

    April 25, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  13. Char

    The environmental history of the GOP:
    –standing firmly in the way of any alternative forms of energy
    –denying the scientific evidence of global warming
    –standing firmly against any attempt to mandate better mpg
    –fighting any restriction on power plants to make their output cleaner
    –trying to open up every stand of old growth trees to logging
    –drill, baby, drill
    –one of Bush's 11th hour rules that Obama has to spend time undoing was to take more power from the EPA.

    Now they're trying to sound like they are leading the way on energy and interested in the environment just like they're trying to portray themselves as being interested in healthcare. Our memories aren't that short.

    April 25, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  14. robin kelly

    It's about time! If hordes of ignorant environmentalists hadn't stymied the nuclear program in the 1970s, this country would have ZERO dependence on foreign oil. There would have been no wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Middle Eastern extremist Islam would be inconsequential, and all the money we spend on energy would be going to American enterprises. Oh yeah, energy costs would be anywhere from 50-70% lower than they are now.

    And please don't talk about safety issues. The worse possible scenario happened at Three MIle Island – and even with 30 year old technology in place, NOTHING HAPPENED.

    April 25, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  15. June in FL

    And what is France doing with the nucleaar waste? And for how long can this dosposal last? I'm all for nuclear power when a longterm, safe disposal is found. As everyone else....but not in my state.

    April 25, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  16. SM in MICHIGAN

    So Senator, does your state want the nuclear waste? How about the train routes transporting radioactive items?
    Thought not!
    France is sending its waste to Russia now...think we could fly ours over?

    The Chinese are far ahead of us in the real industry of the future...steel for wind turbines...that would create more sustainable and safe jobs than any nuclear plant. Think you have trouble selling "clean (sic) coal" wait until you try to build a nuclear facility or two in Tennessee.

    April 25, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. Kenneth

    I honestly don't know how the Republicans keep finding ways to be bigger hypocrites. After eight years of goose-stepping to the Cheney/Bush administration's don't-tax-but-spend-like-mad-and borrow-from-China line, they want to make ridiculous allusions to the French economic model. Well, the French aren't a super-power with world-wide military commitments. We still are, for now anyway. Could these people just shut up for eight years and let Obama try to clean up the mess, please?

    April 25, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  18. RZ

    Nuclear power can make a significant addition/replacement to our energy requirements as can wind, solar, and other forms of energy capture/manufacture. Coal is proving to be very undesirable for many reasons and "cheap" oil is not cheap anymore and will become even more expensive as easy to recover oil is fast running out and its demand is rising.

    My concern is that nuclear energy will be a focal point of disagreement between the parties as a way to garner power for each side. Both parties have taken a one and NOT the other approach to almost every challenge facing the US today.

    As it stands now both sides are right and both sides are wrong. The one common theme for both parties has been to make a flashy show of one out shouting the other without really doing anything for the long term

    April 25, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  19. Mike

    As long as you don't plan to dump the Nuclear waste in my backyard in Nevada!

    April 25, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  20. Bob Ramos

    If you disregard Senator Alexander's bad mouthing comments about the Democrats, you can actually see a good arguement for nuclear energy development and use. The best example I can think of is a pretty (several very good points) girl that has a foul mouth (attacks upon Democrats that are unnecessary) . If she would clean up her act, she would be further ahead but her mouth ruins whatever she has to say.

    April 25, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  21. dustbunny

    I totaly agree on the nuclear power plants. Wind and solor just isn't going to cut it. They can't possibly provide the power. Besides the windmills are a hazard to begin with. Besides being a big eye sore they are a hazard to aircraft spraying farmers crops. I know this because I do that type of flying. The wind mills have also killed a lot of birds.

    April 25, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  22. Jim

    France recycles its nuclear waste. Such recycling has been illegal in the United States since 1977.

    April 25, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  23. Andy

    Hey, I don't like the GOP, but at least he's offering an alternative.

    And I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to actually see Obama give him a fair hearing on it, either.

    April 25, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  24. zarkov

    The EPA study, upon which Democrats in the House claim to have based their energy bill, determined that there would have to be 150 new nuclear plants built in order to meet the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, even with the most optimistic estimates of the growth of solar and wind power. Newt Gingrich pointed out in testimony to Rep. Waxman, Chairman of the House Energy Committee that there was no mention of nuclear power in the bill. Without nuclear power, none of the President's desires for more high speed rail, light rail, or any other electric transportation can come to pass. I believe that if Congress sends him a bill that includes development of nuclear power he will sign it.

    April 25, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  25. randy newman

    cool, build them in mexico though

    April 25, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
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