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. say what

    "you cant hug children with nuclear arms or plants" ! still way too dangerous to use, look what happened at plant in Russia..I would rather have the windmills and other clean green ways than anything nuclear...

    April 25, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  2. devon

    Republicans say what??? Incentives? Incentives for what? If there is one thing that has been made absolutely clear in the last 8 years prior to Obama there is only one way to get these powerful groups and businesses to do what is right for the American people... and that is to make it unprofitable to what is wrong.
    I am for the use of Nuclear energy the way France is using it by they way... just totally against doing it the way Republicans think we should do it. They have been dead wrong for far too long to still be considered credible.

    April 25, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  3. David Somuah


    For once a republican is speaking, without mentioning Barack Obamas name. For one a republican is offering ideas instead of merely criticizing democrat's ideas. I swear the way republicans talk, you would think they are as obsessed with Barack Obama as they claim the media is.

    April 25, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  4. flybyshoeing

    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.

    I guess he just left that little tid bit out. Why can't they just tell the truth?

    I have a question for Mr. Alexander. Who is going to write insurance on those 100 nuclear plants? Robert Kennedy Jr. said no one will.

    April 25, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  5. countryfirst

    Oops! In keeping with our former President and his observations on this subject, your article should have been entitled "GOP goes Nuculer in policy pitch....."

    April 25, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  6. Joe

    This is hilarious. The past eight years the Republicans have done everything they can to show how completely evil France is. The majority of their base hates everything about Europe and France, yet now they want to use them as the beacon of enlightenment for renewable energy. Hilarious. Democrats have always been pro-nuclear, it's what to do with the fuel when it's done. A lot of Republican politicians have outlawed even transporting nuclear waste through their home states. McCain as an example. He's all for nuclear, but god forbid we move any of the absolutely toxic waste through his state. Hypocrites, the whole lot of them. 2010 will be the end of the party.

    April 25, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  7. John

    So the Republicans want the US to be more like France? Will wonders never cease!

    April 25, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  8. Andy from CA

    To those advocates of Green Technology, of which I am part, it may be worth the while to consider how the French operate their nuclear industry. I understand they RE-CYCLE their spent fuel. So please don't dismiss GOP claims as baloney. After all, how are you going to generate enough electricity for all of those hybrid and electric vehicle that are being built? Solar, wind and biodiesel can't meet all of our needs.

    April 25, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  9. Andre

    The GOP are railing against the financial legacy being left for our children yet they are happy to propose a legacy of nuclear waste that will be deadly for tens of thousands of years..... they must be nuts!

    April 25, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  10. tigerakabj

    1. Once again we have a born-again fiscally conservative Republican after the last 8 years of 2 wars, trillions in tax cuts to the wealthy, etc.

    2. And this comes 3 days after Obama, once again, laid out his energy plans, which included the use of nuclear energy and oil/gas (in the short-term transition).

    3. Clean energy was a part of the platform in which Obama and the Democrats won on. What were the GOP doing? Ranting and raving about "palling aound with terrorists", imaginary socialists/marxists, abortion, who's marrying who, and handing out tire gauges making fun of Obama's energy plan.

    The GOP needs to sit down and be quiet. They had their turn and wrecked everything both foreign and domestic.

    April 25, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  11. Marty

    I thought the Bloody red republicans hated the French.

    April 25, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  12. Whoa! Cool!!..oh wait

    It takes 20-30 years to plan and build a nuclear power plant. The carbon footprint made during the construction of a power plant is greatly excessive. (think of trucks, materials, waste, and all things that create a footprint). Nuclear waste needs to be kept safely, security, and constantly monitored for 10,000 years. There is no solution to the waste, period. Despite high security standards a nuclear power plant is never 100% safe. There will always be a risk of failure and the consequences are unreal to both human life and the environment. A failure could cause a large piece of our country to be completely destroyed and unlivable for hundreds of years. Nuclear Power plants are preferred terrorist targets. It takes 20-25 years before a Nuclear Power Plant will pay for itself. It is NOT renewable energy and uses a constant supply of Uranium. Uranium is in very scarce supplies and the world only has so much that is usable for a power plant. It's VERY expensive to extract and purify. The total life of a Nuclear Plant is 75-85 years with current technology. After that it becomes more and more dangerous to operate (pipes get old, things rust, structures become unstable) Population of France: 61 Million (2007) Population of the USA: 303 Million (2008)

    April 25, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  13. carlos

    Wait a minute. aren't the french supposed to be Socialists? I guess there are a few things we can learn from them after all. stupid GOPpers.

    April 25, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  14. Melissa

    Apparently it has escaped the Republicans notice that nuclear is one of the worst polluting sources of energy on the planet. See, when a windpower plant stops workings, there's just no more power. When a nuclear power plant stops working you can nuclear fallout and the land is poisoned for hundreds of year to any new life.

    So tell me exactly how nuclear is green energy again.

    Obama knows that we have to wean ourselves off polluting and poisoness energy and move toward clean energy. Clean means wind, sun, and heat energy from volcanoes. It does not mean that we need to build another deadly nuclear power plant.

    April 25, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  15. No Incumbents in 2010

    Does Lamar Alexander volunteer Tennessee as the repository for nuclear waste dumps? Maybe we should do what the GOP says and do whatever France is doing.

    April 25, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  16. Carl Justus

    How will Lamar Alexander invest to build a nuclear plant?? How much will the entire republican party invest to build a nuclear power plant???

    We have learned that republicans fail even simple 6 grade arithmetic and cannot count past ten without taking off their shoes. Otherwise they would have not spent a budget surplus the first year they had the presidency and complete of congress and then proceeded to borrow 1.9 billion dollars for every day Bush was in office and added to the already massive debt of Bush's father and Reagan to the tune of 6 trillion which makes that the last three republican presidents have added 9.5 trillion dollars to the 11 trillion dollar national debt.

    The last or one of the last nuclear plants built was at Byron, Illinois and it cost more than a billion dollars and that was finished I believe in 1980. Now if we add in the inflation it would cost twice as much today or more. If the republican party had anything to do with it would cost a trillion dollars at least and maybe more with payoffs from contractors they use without the bidding process.

    April 25, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  17. Peter (CA)

    Since when do the Republicans want to do ANYTHING like they do in France?
    Under the circumstances, it may need to be looked at more closely but the disposal of the waste must happen first before the Republicans' friends figure out how to make a ton of money off of this.

    April 25, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  18. Glenn Doty

    France's nuclear program works, but it wouldn't work here... because we're not France.

    In France, there is one standard nuclear plant design. ONE. Whenever a nuclear plant is needed the government buys the land, the region does not or cannot object, and the parts – which are mass produced – are all transported and assembled in a standard, almost snap-together format.

    In America, on the other hand, initial designs are submitted to local governments, then changed, then the re-designs are submitted, then changed... Then a design emerges that is completely unique, with all unique parts and design assemblies. This plant is inevitably assembled in an extremely remote area.

    The result of America's lack of federal authority over local zoning commisions is an average of 20,000,000 man hours of extremely high-skilled/highly educated labor in very remote locales for every 1 GW nuclear plant, or more than 6 billion dollars/GW.

    Until something is done to reduce the power of local authorities in these matters, new nuclear energy is not competitive in America. Regardless of which side of the aisle supports it.

    April 25, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  19. Clean

    So wait...the Republicans are invoking a proven effective policy model of Eurppean origin (France no less!) and they're not mocking it or trying through tortured doublespeak to explain how adopting it will lead to the downfall of our nation because we weren't the first to think of it/implement it on a large scale? So European ideas are no longer elitist, effite, america-hating (and by extension freedom-hating) blashemy that are considered only by those who are ashamed of their country? What is the world coming to?

    April 25, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  20. Albo58

    The Democrats, to include the president, are too afraid of their leftist friends who are terrified of nuclear energy! Furthermore, their "energy policy" is about power and increased taxes, Not about independence from foreign oil!

    April 25, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  21. Dexter Skagway

    Now the Republicans ADMIRE France! There appears to be no limit to their hypocrisy.

    Why are conservatives so incredibly angry? Because every idea they tried while in power flopped miserable. Why are they in such a rage about Obama? Because he may well fix the mess they made and prove them wrong. Why do they champion torture, Palin, concentration camps, Limbaugh, unjust war, Gingrich, broadscale wiretapping, Coulter, secession, and so much more radically insane delusion? I have no idea.

    April 25, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  22. Larry

    Ummmm ... ?

    And what is the plan for the spent fuel rods ... ?

    Same old problem dudes ... no answer

    Sounds like the Nuclear people are sleeping with Republicans to me

    April 25, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  23. William in San Jose

    Wow, GOP'ers saying something "nice" about France. That's rich! Sure let's build'em Lamar, it'll be ten years before they're finished and I'm certain you'll be just as vociferous when it comes time to store the nuclear waste in your backyard..

    April 25, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Hmmmm....Here we go again GOP....a day late and a dollare short....Pres. Obama and his Energy Dept. are already there...... And we know that when it comes to the GOP vote.....it will again be 'NO'...go figure....It's just sad....

    April 25, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    100 more nuclear plans, great. Now where do you get rid of the radioactive waste? In Alabama under Sen Alexander's house?

    April 25, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
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