Friday, October 23, 2009

President Obama at MIT

President Barack Obama’s energy speech at MIT could have focused a bit more on nuclear energy. But he intended to cover a lot of bases and clearly did that. He noted the green jobs created by the stimulus bill, he called for bipartisanship in crafting the climate change bill in the Senate, he paid appropriate homage to the innovation and accomplishments of schools like MIT. So the actual energy portion of the speech was just that – a portion – and nuclear references, like others, were made in passing.

So let’s see what he said about nuclear energy and give you a taste of the speech:

Everybody in America should have a stake in legislation that can transform our energy system into one that's far more efficient, far cleaner, and provide energy independence for America -- making the best use of resources we have in abundance, everything from figuring out how to use the fossil fuels that inevitably we are going to be using for several decades, things like coal and oil and natural gas; figuring out how we use those as cleanly and efficiently as possible; creating safe nuclear power; sustainably grown biofuels; and then the energy that we can harness from wind and the waves and the sun.  It is a transformation that will be made as swiftly and as carefully as possible, to ensure that we are doing what it takes to grow this economy in the short, medium, and long term.  And I do believe that a consensus is growing to achieve exactly that.

So there’s that. And:

This is the nation that harnessed electricity and the energy contained in the atom, that developed the steamboat and the modern solar cell.  This is the nation that pushed westward and looked skyward.

In its context, Obama is here rejecting the notion that nothing can be done about climate change – that we can do anything we set our minds to doing.

You can read the rest of the speech here.

16 comments:

bruce said...

Note: "Create safe nuclear energy"

Obama acknowledges that nuclear energy is NOT safe. With the canceling of Yucca mountain and Nuclear reprocessing, I think it is clear Obama realizes that nuclear power is NOT an option. I applaud him. He has taken clear steps to undercut this supposed "nuclear revival."

Chuck P. said...

"...creating safe nuclear power..."
We already HAVE safe nuclear power. There's no need to create it. In fact, considering that nuclear power has never killed a member of the public in the US, it is impossible for it to get any safer.

Brian Mays said...

Sadly, both Bruce and Chuck are wrong.

Obama's rhetoric "creating safe nuclear power" is a perfect example of doublethink. Whether you like Obama or not, you must admit that he is a doubleplusgood duckspeaker. This speech is yet another fine example of how good a duckspeaker he is.

Since Obama seems to live and operate in Orwell's fictional 1984, nuclear advocates will eventually need to recall what we learned in the real 1984 and (to borrow a slogan from the time) ask "Where's the beef?"

Marcel F. Williams said...

There's no logical reason to throw away good spent fuel at Yucca. Spent fuel should be recycled into more clean energy.

D Kosloff said...

Spent fuel stored at Yucca Mountain can always be retrieved.

D. Kosloff said...

Bruce,

Neither President Obama nor anyone else can acknowledge something that is not so. You may recall that President Obama recently asserted that Japan and France use nuclear power safely. They use the same technology that we do. By any normal usage of the word "safe", US nuclear power is safe.

bruce said...

There's no logical reason to throw away good spent fuel at Yucca. Spent fuel should be recycled into more clean energy.

Well, opening Yucca would have allowed nuclear power to go forward in at least a dozen different states where the law is: "No new nuclear power until there is a permanent storage facility." So shutting down Yucca was an important step at stopping this dangerous nuclear revival.

Furthermore, Obama is not going to allow reprocessing, as his cancellation of the environmental review for that demonstrates. I don't know how many times I need to explain this to you pro-nuke crazies.

Anonymous said...

See Bruce, there is a large problem with the anti nuclear arguments, that being they are almost never based on concrete facts.

To this date, there has never been a significant release of radioactive material by the US nuclear power industry. Three Mile Island, if you read the full story behind it, is a testament to the safety of our reactors. That was 30 years ago. Reactor design and safety has continued to improve since then.

The issue with the fuel. Permanent storage is a long term issue, as in currently there is enough on site storage to store waste from a once through fuel cycle for the next 50 years. So no, waste is not an immediate problem.

Not allowing reprocessing is a big problem. Why is the fuel so dangerous to begin with? because it is giving off loads of energy. Reprocessing allows for the reuse of spent fuel, and with fast reactors many of the long lived actinides can be "burned". Just because the word plutonium is a scary word does not mean it is a scary technology.

The final thing is that people need to give credit where credit is due, where does 80% of the carbon free electricity come from? Answer: Nuclear. Currently Nuclear Fission is the single best way to produce carbon free electricity, and honestly there is no argument you can back with statistics and hard facts to refute that.

Either way, Nuclear is great, deal with it.

Anonymous said...

Bruce is quite incorrect about the Obama administration's position on nuclear energy. The Administration is perfectly comfortable with nuclear power, but is using it as a trading chip with the Republicans to get climate change legislation passed:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/11/opinion/11kerrygraham.html

The Democrats have their wacko anti-nukes, and the Republicans have their wacko global-warming skeptics. Both fringe groups are important during the get-out-the-vote season, but are liabilities the rest of the time.

The careful language used by politicians on both sides is perfectly logical, but should not be interpreted by the wacko fringe on either side as indicating that somehow their opinions represent the main-stream.

bruce said...

Anonymous #2, the Democrats are sadly willing to cave on a few minor nuclear issues, but make no mistake. Stopping reprocessing and shutting down Yucca mountain had nothing to do with getting Republican support.

How can you say Obama is "perfectly fine" with nuclear power after closing Yucca and stopping reprocessing? At this point I think you're engaging in wishful thinking. Obama may be willing to put in a minor concession to Republicans, but that's about it.

And I find your assertion that there's much difference between Republicans and Democrats on climate change somewhat absurd, the climate change bill is watered down to the point of being meaningless. Democrats are taking effectively zero stance on climate change, even John McCain said he favored cap and trade - that's Obama's position as well now. They're all a bunch of sell outs.

Anonymous said...

Bruce said: I don't know how many times I need to explain this to you pro-nuke crazies.

You're trolling a pro-nuke website. If you think you're going to change anyone's mind to match yours, then you're the crazy.

gman said...

Bruce said

They're all a bunch of sell outs.

Wow, I never thought I'd agree with anything Bruce said.

Anonymous said...

Bruce says, "Democrats are taking effectively zero stance on climate change."

This sounds a lot like someone who is outside the mainstream of his party.

Being pro-nuclear means favoring the construction of a large number of new nuclear power plants, to generate large quantities of low-carbon electricity.

Many pro-nuclear people see no reason to rush into reprocessing before better technologies are developed, and likewise oppose the current policy for how to use Yucca Mountain.

Find one place where President Obama has opposed the construction of new nuclear power plants, or a deal on the climate change bill that would greatly increase the pool of loan-guarantees available for construction of new, low-carbon energy technologies including nuclear.

Jason Ribeiro said...

One thing to notice based on these comments and comments elsewhere is people are reading meaning between the lines that suits their own viewpoint. Did Obama say "creating safe nuclear..." as in we are doing that right now or that it will be done in the future? Yes, there is some ambiguity in that statement.

This is definitely an area where Obama treads very lightly, partly because he doesn't want to upset the environmental support base. On the other hand, Obama and other environmentalists are realizing more all the time that nuclear cannot be taken off the table - ever. They know they will never be able to meet the CO2 reductions without it. This is a slow process where some energy thinkers are slowly coming over, trying to save their own face and hope you never noticed they didn't admit they were wrong all along.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Nuclear Power's safety record in the US speaks for itself. Now, if we could only create a safe legislative branch, a safe mortgage/banking industry, safe tort reform... etc.

bruce said...

Many pro-nuclear people see no reason to rush into reprocessing before better technologies are developed, and likewise oppose the current policy for how to use Yucca Mountain.

Then these pro-nuclear people aren't very smart, because at least a dozen states legally require a spent fuel solution before even allowing construction of a single reactor (California being among them). Shutting down Yucca (which was unsafe anyway) was a major step in cutting the nuclear revival off at the knees as it is now obvious to all that nuclear power hasn't even addressed the issue of what can be done with the waste.

You say reprocessing is not such a good idea, I agree. But Yucca cost billions and was canceled after-all, so how can we responsibly use a form of power when we have all but admitted that there is NO solution to the problem of nuclear waste?! Obama canceled reprocessing and Yucca, so he has all but admitted there is no solution. And what reprocessing technology are you expecting - transmutation into gold?