Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Obama on Nuclear: Advancing Peace and Opportunity to All People

200846-vobr-01_obalka_velka President Barack Obama has provided a regular thrill ride when it comes to nuclear energy, tamping down Yucca Mountain, inspiring commissions galore on what to do with used nuclear fuel, and suffering our parsing his every word.

Well, we parse no more. Obama said this to the Czechs gathered in Prague to hear him speak – and by extension, everyone with a TV or radio. The subject was nuclear disarmament (we’ll leave it to you to decide how you feel about that), but what then to do with nuclear energy?

The basic bargain is sound: Countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them, and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy. To strengthen the treaty, we should embrace several principles. We need more resources and authority to strengthen international inspections. We need real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without cause.

It gets better.

And we should build a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation. That must be the right of every nation that renounces nuclear weapons, especially developing countries embarking on peaceful programs. And no approach will succeed if it's based on the denial of rights to nations that play by the rules. We must harness the power of nuclear energy on behalf of our efforts to combat climate change, and to advance peace and opportunity for all people.

A lot of this taps Obama’s penchant for soaring into rhetorical rhapsodies, but an international fuel bank is pretty darn specific. (See here for more information – the U.S. supports Kazakhstan’s efforts – and here for what the IAEA is up to in this regard.) And that last sentence might have come from an overreaching nuclear energy advocate. But boy, we’ll take it – a big change from the stingy references that have dotted Obama’s utterances up to now.

Genuinely strange illustration for the Czech newsweekly Respekt. The colored letters on his teeth – which you can see better by clicking the image – spell “change.” It took us a moment to grasp that they had given him a seventies-style afro, too – we thought at first it was the brim of a cowboy hat. We’re sure the artist has something in mind here, but we’re not sure what that something is. Respekt’s english website is here.

5 comments:

Ioannes said...

Exactly how much money is the Obama Administration devoting to GNEP, recycling spent fuel, and providing an alternative to Yucca Mountain? As people at this blog have pointed out regarding former President Bush's pro-nuclear power statements, talk is cheap. Where's the action? The budget for GNEP is being reduced. And Obama isn't funding 40 new nukes as McCain (when he was running for Presidency) said he would have were he elected. And Steven Chu, Obama's DOE secretary said Yucca isn't an option.

By the way, Harry Reid's hand-picked man for the NRC - Jackzo - recently voted AGAINST license extension for Oyster Creek. I'll wager that Obama will appoint MORE people like him to the NRC.

Talk is cheap, guys. For the 3 trillion dollar debt Obama is getting us into, he sure could finance a whole mess load of new nukes.

athul b. nair said...

The Us government is not interested in any green policy and all. They just want to interfere in the internal matters of other countries. The fine example is attack on Pakistan.
The US foreign policy is always the same. Its the continuation of George Bush's policy. They are always interested in attacking another country, divide and rule policy. Earlier they supported Saddam Hussein before Kuwait war, supported Taliban against Russia. Pak attacked Now attacked Pakistan in the name of Taliban. When they will change. They had plan to attack Iran if the recession wasn't serious.

Rod Adams said...

Unlike Ioannes, I do not think that the government needs to "show me the money" by direct investments in revenue producing assets - especially if those payments would be made to large, well established firms that would still assert ownership rights to the assets and capture all of the profits.

Instead, the action I would like to see is the government really working to protect the general health and safety of its population by enabling the safe and efficient development of emission free power plants, fuel mining activities, fuel fabrication, and mineral enrichment. Nuclear energy can be a very lucrative PRIVATELY funded investment if the government actively works to remove the false barriers to entry that have been erected by the established energy industry.

People rail about the capital cost of nuclear plants, but any nuke worth his salt can point to dozens of excessively expensive and lengthy procedures that are layered with requirements that do nothing to improve safety but do everything possible to slow down progress and add cost. They can also point to dozens if not hundreds of parts that cost 5-10 times as much as identical parts for "conventional" plants.

I think all of that cost is not only unnecessary, but it reduces the public health and safety by enabling the continued use of far more dangerous and deadly "grandfathered" coal, gas and oil fired power stations.

If Obama really does believe that nuclear energy should be used to enable development, perhaps he can start by ordering the government regulators to figure out a way to effectively review the reported deluge (reported by Commissioner Klein) of design concepts for smaller reactors that are appropriate for developing markets in the US and overseas.

Apparently Klein believes that his agency is not equipped to perform the reviews, especially since they are funded by existing licensees who have not yet expressed interest in the smaller plants.

Anyone who believes that the US is fully developed must be unaware of places like Hawaii - still dependent on oil for electricity, Puerto Rico, Alaska, Guam, and many other places where "the grid" is unavailable or unreliable.

D. Kosloff said...

Athul,
Are you claiming that it was wrong for the US to support Muslims in their fight against the Soviet Union?
The Taliban was not in power and may not even have existed as an organization while we were supporting the Muslim opposition to the communist invaders.

Ioannes said...

Rod,

Actually, I agree with you: "If Obama really does believe that nuclear energy should be used to enable development, perhaps he can start by ordering the government regulators to figure out a way to effectively review the reported deluge (reported by Commissioner Klein) of design concepts for smaller reactors that are appropriate for developing markets in the US and overseas."

Let the free market work - that's the best solution. President Obama should level the regulatory playing field. There should be no govt funding for any commercial endeavor. BUT that isn't the approach of the Obama Administration (e.g., AGI, GM, banks, etc.). So I am suggesting that instead of spening trillions propping up industries that don't work, why not spend it on industries that do work. Sadly, we can't force Obama to be free enterprise, so maybe he can be redirected?