Politics As Usual – Senators Put Their Arms Around Nuclear Power

On January 27, 2009, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee included in a provision to President Obama’s economic stimulus package that would allow around $50 BILLION of the plan to be used as loan guarantees for for “eligible technologies.” If you are asking what defines “eligible technologies”, it consists of nuclear, “clean coal,” renewable energy sources and electric transmission. The provision’s backers, primarily Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) and Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE), have shown that their intent is the $50 Billion would go for new nuclear reactor construction, ignoring the fact that the Congressional Budget Office predicts a 50% default rate by nuclear utility companies. This would be on top of the $18.5 Billion taxpayer dollars already authorized by Congress during the Bush administration.

The stimulus package is intended to stimulate the economy. The last time I checked it takes approximately 15 years to build a new nuclear plant and have it up and running. Close to the same length of time it would take to build and oil rig. On the other hand it would only take months to get a solar power plant up and running. Not to mention the issue of hazardous waste that we would have to contend with.

What am I missing? Why is it so difficult to get the idea of RENEWABLE energy into the mainstream of our thoughts? Why are our Senators so eager to overlook the renewable possibilities. Have we not learned anything from our past. My grandmother live down wind of Three Mile Island. She was still paying the taxes on the clean up tens years after the meltdown. Why are we being so thick-headed when it comes to economics and the environment.

I really appreciate the fact that we finally have a President in office that is in tune with our needs and desires for keeping the environment in the forefront of his efforts, but (and you knew there would be one) I am wondering if he can really stay on task if we don’t keep up the pressure.

So I am asking you to call your senators and let them know that this is not an acceptable addition to the Stimulus Package. Please ask them to take it out. Showing a united front will allow the senators to know that if they can’t imagine a renewable energy future, then they must think of it in terms of a renewable career.

Senate Switchboard: 202-224-3121


4 comments on “Politics As Usual – Senators Put Their Arms Around Nuclear Power

  1. Michael Ashcroft

    snilon,When the World Trade Centre was hit, I’d imagine many things were put on alert of another attack. There are many potential targets, that if hit, could do serious damage – the death toll incurred by a nuclear plant being hit would be nothing compared with the death toll associated with a skyscraper collapsing. We have to be realistic when anticipating future problems, and keep them in perspective. Nuclear plants have existed for a while, but the number of deaths associated with nuclear power is hundreds if not thousands of times smaller than deaths associated with fossil fuels (mining, operating, effects of toxic pollutants etc). It’s even safer than hydro, which has in the past wiped out thousands when dams (in China, for example) have failed and obliterated entire valleys.Joe,You say that solar energy can provide a baseline input to the grid. That’s simply not the case. Solar panels will, realistically, only produce viable energy at most 40% of the time, assuming equal day and night. At night, obviously, they will produce nothing. During dawn and dusk periods the energy density will be so low so as to make them practically worthless. When they are off, the grid will require something else to take 100% of the load. Solar panels can produce peak time output, to account for air conditioning during the summer, but it will never be the primary source of power for a nation (without extreme advances in energy storage capabilities). Neither solar nor wind can produce a reliable baseline. The other options are fossil fuels and nuclear power – and perhaps hydro, but that can’t be extended to supply 100% of the USA, ever.

  2. Joe

    Nuclear power isn’t a good option, just based on economics alone. Besides the soaring construction and decommissioning costs, how do you calculate the costs of storing radioactive waste for 10,000 years? Plus, renewable energy like concentrated solar can provide base load power. The most important thing to remember I think is that the costs of nuclear are soaring, while the costs of renewables are quickly dropping. It is bad public policy to steer taxpayer dollars toward a mature industry that is becoming less competitive instead of the rapidly growing wind, solar and geothermal industries. Plus, renewables can be implemented much more quickly, and this is absolutely key – the climate science says we need to quickly cut emissions, and the long construction time of new nuclear plants (which are never completed on time or at budget anyway) is incompatible with this necessity.There are many more arguments of course – better job creation with renewables, the ethics of subjecting future generations to dealing with a radioactive waste problem we can’t solve, the threat of terrorism, and on and on. But the economics alone should simply end any move toward nuclear power. If you want to hear Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt talk about this, you can check this link; http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/01/google-ceo-eric-schmidt-renewable-clean-energy-nukes-nuclear-video.php

  3. snilon

    If you judge us by our history, we tend to replace one problem with another. Nuclear Power, even though it has come a long way, it is still not the answer. When the World Trade Center bombings occurred in the United States and our country was put under alert, one of the first concerns was the vulnerability of our Nuclear Power Plants to another terrorist attack. You must acknowledge the possibility of that happening when you arguing in favor of Nuclear Power.Whether it is from a terrorist attack or human error, there will always be the possibility of destruction and fatalities, no matter how much we improve the facilities. What could happen if a wind or solar field was taken out? We would lose power? That is a more reasonable alternative to the death and destruction of a Nuclear Power Plant disaster, let alone the decades of recovery from the poisoning of nuclear waste. And the the issue of storing nuclear waste is wrought with it’s own problems.Renewable energy will create jobs now. We already have Nuclear Power. We are not asking for them to be taken away (yet), we are just asking for our money to be put on a different course. One that offers us a cleaner future that would not make us vulnerable to terrorism.

  4. Michael

    But the problem is that solar plants generate electricity where the numbers end in MW. Nuclear power plants can generate huge amounts more, taking up less space. I agree that renewables should be at the top of every list, but that’s not to say that nuclear power is a bad supplement when compared with fossil fuels.We have to stop the burning of fossil fuels. That much everyone can agree on. It’s not entirely fair to ask our leaders to stop burning fossil fuels, but then simultaneously tell them they can’t use the next most viable thing: nuclear power. They have to provide electricity to millions, worry about the economy, and keep us healthy. This is one problem I have when it comes to the policies of Greenpeace, for example. Renewables cannot be implemented widely enough, or quickly enough to provide for everything. Even if they could, we’d need some kind of baseline input to the grid to make up for the inherent down time of renewables (at night, when it’s not windy, etc). Nuclear power is ideal for this purpose.The only real dangers caused by nuclear power are from the waste and the possibility of some kind of “meltdown”. Such things no longer happen, as modern designs cause nuclear reactors to cool if they fail, not increase in temperature. The waste produced is minimal, and can be stored. Research continues into methods of treating the high level waste.I’m not saying that nuclear power is the best form of energy and that we should aim to be reliant on it, but if it can help ease the strain on our economies and energy requirements, then I’m all for it.

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