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. Glenn, Cary, NC

    Follow the money. You can bet whatever you've got left in your retirement plan that Alexander is being paid off big time by the nuclear energy lobby.

    April 25, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  2. bsmith171

    alternative energy = NUCLEAR.

    it's that simple.

    not growing 100 acres of corn to power 7 experimental vehicles.

    April 25, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  3. Felines for Freedom

    How clever – the GOP begins pitching ideas already in Obama's budget. Can you say irrelevant?

    April 25, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  4. white woman in Hawaii

    Leave it to the GOP to choose the most dangerous type of alternative energy, nuclear. They either want oil and coal, or nuclear. Why is it that the GOP don't care about the environment? How can they call themslves Christians when they don't care about the planet? We need wind, solar and biofuels, if we are going do put billions into alternative energy sources, why not choose the ones that are clean and safe?

    April 25, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  5. gate

    Same old tired rhetoric from the repubs. And where are we supposed to store the waste? As usual they have no answers. Invest in clean renewable energy like wind and solar. Obama looks to the future while the Repubs wish it could be 1950 for ever (segregation and homophobia included).

    April 25, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. Jason

    Where do we put all the radioactive waste. wheres the enviormentalism in that.

    April 25, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  7. Simpliticus

    When the GOP falters, it keeps on faltering! In my opinion, there is nothing "green" about nuclear energy and lets not forget the Yucca Mountain debacle which has set this country back decades in terms of a repository of nuclear waste. Alexander is throwing anything at the population during these shaky GOP times. This is something that will NOT catch on, now or in the near future! The GOP has more things to worry about, especially in torture and unAmerican ways! Don't expect a distraction likes nuclear energy to take the nation's focus off of the Republican orchestrated torture memos. Nuclear energy isn't savory at this time!

    April 25, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  8. andy

    so after years of making fun of democrats for embracing france, we get this? granted, the guy is right in that we should try to mimic what france has done well, but at least admit that you'll use france as a punchline later on the dems.

    April 25, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  9. donald j joyant

    "Well, we Republicans like renewable energy, too" I guess they just woke up after a long long sleeeeeeeeep. GIVE ME A BREAK

    April 25, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  10. Yes we Can

    America needs to adpot the "all of the above" energy strategy.

    If it works, If its clean, if its cheap, we should be investing in it.

    Why cant America have solar energy in the SW, Wind Mills across the great paints, tide power along our coasts, bio fuels/switch grass in the Midwest and Nuclear Power Plants in the middle of nowhere?

    We all need to realize Nuclear energy is 100% safer then it was in 1979 or 1983 (3 Mile Island or Chernobyl), and in many cases safe guards have advanced according to the laws of physics to limit the possible problems

    April 25, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  11. patrick murphy

    Apparently Mr. Alexander hasn't looked into the availability of nuclear fuel for 100 additional nuclear power plants. Let's see him tell us where that is supposed to be found. He prefers nuclear over solar technology, no doubt, because it requires a non-renewable fuel and concentrates politcal and economic power in the hands of a few major corporations. Significant solar production, in contrast, can be highly decentralized, with every American homeowner a producer.

    April 25, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. tim

    Recycle....how do you recycle spent fuel rods. If a solar panel breaks down it just stops working, when a nuclear plant has issues people are born with tails and three eyes. I want to see more renewable energy in this country, but I don't think realistically nuclear is the answer. No matter how "safe" it is made out to be the consequence of an accident is cataclysmic. I think we as Americans can come up with something better than an answer that has the potential to completely destroy the planet. Besides, not a single one of these ideas is new....just rehashed, warmed over crap. If Mr. Alexander thinks that France is such a great place maybe he should move there.

    April 25, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  13. karl

    Republicans are always trying to find a wrong even if it makes them look stupid in the process. It is a shame that the republican party is so far out of touch with the worlds agenda when it comes to climate control. Republicans just don't care about the future generations and it shows when you speak about funding education and energy.

    April 25, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  14. Eric

    Senator, how exactly do you propose we dispose of nuclear waste? Democrats are talking about CLEAN energy, not just another way for us to deal with more toxic waste.

    April 25, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  15. Ben (Eugene, OR)

    I've been saying this for YEARS. It's stupid not to expand our nuclear power capabilities. It's efficient, and it's cheap. And one thing we need to dig us out of our economic troubles is energy. If we install cap and trade carbon emissions before expanding nuclear, we will be in a world of hurt...

    April 25, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. Mark

    A good speech but as one of those swing votes, it still begs the questions....why didnt you do what you speak of for 8 years? I actually LIKE your arguments....but why didnt you follow through. While "green" is good, as it is pointed out it just doesnt deliver enough – and that means a more balanced approach. So...after all those years, where are the new plants?

    April 25, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  17. stevetall

    It's amazing. How can the Republicans come out on the wrong side of every issue?!? Look forward, you r-tards, not back. Innovate, invent, conserve. These would be the right choices. And quit having so many kids!

    April 25, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  18. Steve

    And where will we put all the spent fuel? Oh, right, that won't be our problem – that will be our children's and their children's problem. Crazy is still crazy – even if it's cheap.

    April 25, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  19. Chris

    Just when one thinks the GOP could potentially see the writing on the wall, they come up with something like this. I'm all for energy independence, but this is a horrible idea.

    April 25, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  20. Frank Gerber

    Want some American fries with that, Lamar?

    April 25, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  21. Anthony Seta

    Nuclear Energy can provide the power, and the GOP has made the correct talking points... but the primary problem with this power source is the by-product waste that is produced. No community or state wants to have a waste respository on their land. The issue of nuclear waste storage is one the primary hindrances to building new nuke plants.

    No honest discussion can occur in congress about building new nuclear facilities unless the issue of waste storage is addressed simultaneously.

    I'll give the GoP the benefit of the doubt. If they can produce concrete plans that cover every critical aspect of this debate, then I'm willing to listen. I suspect thought that all of these republican senators and representatives will engage in the standard NIMBY-centric positions in regards to this waste storage in their own districts – which will inevitably kill this idea proposed by Lamar Alexander.

    April 25, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  22. Arack Bobama

    Nice spin, CNN, as always to put the Republicans into the worst possible light and in keeping with the liberal propaganda line.

    Typical Hearst approach: "I don't care about the stories as long as I get to write the headlines."

    April 25, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  23. David

    Here, Here!! Where has this policy position BEEN for the past ten years? Now that Repulicans are out of power, they've decided they have nothing to risk on this topic and so are finally speaking up. (Unfortunately, they lacked sorely in internal leadership while they were in power and so never even tried to advance this agenda, which is why so many conservatives remain disgusted with them.) It's time for the nuclear discussion. We Americans are overdue to grow up as to this issue. Nuclear power is safe and effective; and it is extremely environmentally CLEAN by any measure.

    April 25, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  24. HJA

    They still don't get it. The Sun can provide unlimited energy. Fuel cells are nonpoluting. There are ways to get energy without the radioactive waste that is deadly for thousands of years. You want to save energy? Shut down LasVegas. That is the most wasteful city on Earth. Millions of gallons of water for golf courses that shouldn't exist. A 6" high pressure gas line for a casino's fake volcano? That's it!! Build the nuke plants and store the waste in LasVegas. Everything would glow as bright as day!! That would save energy!!

    April 25, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  25. JOE

    Who cares what the Grand Old Pricxs party thinks or does...They are old history...Thanks to BUSH and "THE DICK" CHENEY.

    April 25, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
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