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Obama Addresses Governors at Global Climate Summit

Obama_Schwarzenegger_Sebelius_EnergySome interesting comments coming from President-elect Obama in his address to the bipartisan Governors' Global Climate Summit, scheduled to begin later this morning. It would appear that, despite the global financial crisis, cap-and-trade is still front and center. From the prepared remarks,
In particular, I want to commend Governor Sebelius, Governor Doyle, Governor Crist, Governor Blagojevich and your host, Governor Schwarzenegger –all of you have shown true leadership in the fight to combat global warming. And we’ve also seen a number of businesses doing their part by investing in clean energy technologies.

But too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office. My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.

That will start with a federal cap and trade system. We will establish strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80% by 2050.

Further, we will invest $15 billion each year to catalyze private sector efforts to build a clean energy future. We will invest in solar power, wind power, and next generation biofuels. We will tap nuclear power, while making sure it’s safe. And we will develop clean coal technologies.
A Webcast of the two-day summit is available here.


Brian Mays said…
"While making sure it's safe"?!!

Has President-Elect Obama ever presented any evidence that today's nuclear power is not safe?

Is this not a classic example of doublethink?
Anonymous said…
"Has President-Elect Obama ever presented any evidence that today's nuclear power is not safe?Is this not a classic example of doublethink?"

No, Obama was just specifying one of his criteria for support of new nuclear units. Not commenting on current fleet.

what was really crazy was McCain labelling Obama "an environmental extremist" for saying that new nuclear units needed to be safe! I guess that makes the industry and NRC "environmental extremists" too.
Brian Mays said…
Anonymous: Has President-Elect Obama ever presented any evidence that the new proposed nuclear units are not safe?

If anything, new nuclear units would benefit from decades of experience operating the current fleet "unsafe" reactors, not only in the US, but worldwide.

These "criteria" that you mention are even more nonsensical than what I questioned.

More doublethink.
Anonymous said…
The point is, why attach this redundant "as long as it's safe" criteria? The plants in operation now are operating safely, as they always have. The new designs are safe. No one is going to build an unsafe plant or operate a plant in an unsafe manner. There is no reason to tag on this "as long as it's safe" qualifier.
Joffan said…
Obama can attach any superfluous conditions he wants to nuclear power (eg. he can say "if it's energetic") so long as he's serious about making things sufficiently stable and predictable on electricity generation that nuclear build can move ahead now (preferably at the 20 reactors/year rate that recent applications to the NRC might indicate are possible). That is my only real hope for ameliorating the effects of climate change, barring some amazing physics discovery.
Anonymous said…
I quote the official Obama Energy Plan.

"However, before an expansion of nuclear power is considered, key issues must be addressed including: security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and proliferation."

He does not want to consider expansion until security, storage, and proliferation is "addressed," whatever that means.

If addressed means solved, then expansion is out of the question any time soon.
Rod Adams said…
I fail to see any difference between what President-elect Obama says about nuclear safety and what all nukes tell each other in countless conferences, training classes, new employee indoctrination, etc. - our number one priority is reactor safety.

We also should not "assume" that our leaders know what we know about the safety, economy, cleanliness and reliability of nuclear power. We need to keep repeating our story in numerous ways and in numerous media. We need to contribute to campaigns with both money and time, we need to advertise and we need to establish marketing strategies - just like any other competitive supplier of a valuable product.

@anonymous - please understand that your partisanship is not helpful. Nuclear power CANNOT thrive if it captured by one party or the other since political winds change more frequently than technology. Those license applications that are mentioned are for plants that may still be operating at the turn of the next century, they should see a lot of administrations come and go.
Jason Ribeiro said…
I think Obama realizes like everyone else should, there are basically three types attitudes about nuclear: those who support it, those who see pros/cons and are on the fence, and those who oppose it. He's not saying no to nuclear but rather chooses the politically savvy approach to speak to those on the fence - probably the largest group of those 3 basic types.

The nuclear industry and the proponents should expect these qualifiers. Echoing Rod Adams' comments, marketing, education and promotion should be a huge priority for nuclear. On the flip side Obama may be suggesting an increase the NRC budget to address these issues. Promotion, education and marketing is a good problem to have. The nuclear industry is not looking for a bailout like other industries and it has a basically a fresh slate for PR to start. All things considered, the future looks very bright for nuclear. It is now time for nuclear to harness a positive vision and communicate that to the world.
Anonymous said…
Rod, the concern that those of us who view nuclear as an absolutely essential component of any 21rst century energy strategy is that green groups are implacable foes of the technology and are so dogmatic that there is simply no reasoning with them. As a result of their disproportionate influence, always-vague "safety" concerns or waste-disposal issues are used as a defacto ban on nuclear power. Certainly, that's the case here in California. So, forgive us if we're suspicious when we hear the same code phrases from our newly-elected leaders.
George Carty said…
Would campaigning efforts be better directed not at making a positive case for nuclear power, but at destroying the anti-nuclear greens by exposing them as anti-human Malthusians?
Brian Mays said…

I don't know which "anonymous" you are replying to, but if it is the person who posted at November 18, 2008 4:45 PM, then that person was simply quoting directly from Obama and Biden's own "New Energy for America plan," (see page 6), which is available from their own website. I fail to see how quoting a politician's own words is a case of "partisanship." Perhaps you can explain.

As far as "nuclear safety and what all nukes tell each other in countless conferences," etc., is concerned. Have you ever considered the possibility that all of these "nukes" are wrong and are simply overly conservative in a way that does none of us any good? In the latest issue of Nuclear News (published by the American Nuclear Society), Ted Rockwell addresses this issue, and I present a few of his words for consideration:

The Europeans at the WNA Symposium [the World Nuclear Association Symposium, held September 3-5, 2008, in London] were talking proudly of how their latest reactor design, with its core catcher and superior leak-tight containment, is safer than the current plants' designs. This is wrong in concept. Adding provisions to solve a nonproblem merely provides additional potential paths to failure. One of the few serious failures in a full-scale commercial American nuclear power plant [i.e., the Fermi-1 fast breeder reactor] was caused by a core catcher -- the only plant to have one. It vibrated, broke loose, and partially blocked cooling flow to the core, leading to some fuel meltdown. Although no radioactivity was released outside plant boundaries, the incident led to a book, The Day We Almost Lost Detroit, much cited by nuclear critics.

... nothing can replace the knowledge that when all else fails, the consequences of the worst realistic incident are tolerable. The nuclear industry has demonstrated decades of nearly flawless performance and safety worldwide. Nuclear plants do not need more safety features. They need to be simpler and less expensive to build and to operate so that we can maintain that excellent record. We need to build thousands of them, as quickly as possible.

Dr. Rockwell puts forward unequivocally what needs to be done. Now, does anything in the Obama/Biden "New Energy for America plan," indicate that this will happen?

Call me skeptical, but as long as I hear the words "while making sure it's safe" and "before an expansion of nuclear power is considered" (Obama's own words), I will remain unconvinced that the Obama administration will be anything but an impediment to an expansion of nuclear power in the US, although I certainly hope that I am wrong.

We'll know more of what to expect after Obama picks a Secretary of Energy.
Anonymous said…
"No one is going to build an unsafe plant or operate a plant in an unsafe manner."

Then I guess we don't need the NRC at all.

"There is no reason to tag on this "as long as it's safe" qualifier."

Maybe some people don't believe that. Not everyone has the exact same perspective as the nuclear industry on these issues. Or at least they aren't willing to take those points so completely on faith that safety isn't even worth mentioning.

The NRC's first and primary mission is "public safety." Is that nonsensical on their part, because current and future plants are so inherently safe that it isn't even worth mentioning?
Brian Mays said…
To Anonymous at November 19, 2008 1:41 PM:

The NRC is the main reason why "no one is going to build an unsafe plant or operate a plant in an unsafe manner."

These points are not taken "on faith." They are the result of decades of experience worldwide running the existing plants and countless hours analyzing, studying, and understanding the risks, using rigorous techniques, before coming to this conclusion.

Finally, I'll turn the question the other way. If you claim that "as long as it's safe" is justified as a qualifier, then I have to ask you the following: safe compared to what? What is good enough?

Compared to other forms of electricity generation, there is no contest; the record is clear. Nuclear is the safest form of electricity generation out there.
RC from Peoria said…
Hmmm.. How can nuclear be safer than nat gas or solar? Three Mile Island was a pretty serious accident.

And what about the waste? It needs stored for 10000 yr.

The cost of nuc fuel will skyrocket with so many new plants, and therfore the cost of electricity. Solar technology I think has a lot more potential. And it's about as clean as you get. Do you realize how expensive and how long it takes to build a nuc plant? THey cost probably 10 billion each now, and take years. Put only 1 billion in solar research and see what happens.a They are already close to making solar competitive with current elec costs. Nuclear power is OLD technology, nothing but a make-work scheme. Rob
RC from Peoria said…
Nuc power is very expensive- 10 billion each? and take years to build- too old technology.
Just a make work scheme.
Solar is close to being competitive at today's elec rates.
And nuc waste is not a trivial matter. Store for 10000 yr??? I guess we'll be on another planet by then anyway.

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