Skip to main content

Bipartisan Loan Guarantees and Who Vogtle Was

vogtle So how did Barack Obama’s announcement of the first loan guarantee go with the nabobs of the media world? Well – really well.

But let’s do some grousing and correcting anyway, since we think some media outlets are looking for a hook for the story that the facts on the ground do not fully support. For example, here’s the Washington Post:

Republicans, who have called for building as many as 100 new nuclear power plants, hailed the president's move as evidence that he has accepted their argument. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) called it a "good first step" that would pave the way for progress on climate and energy legislation.

And this is the Post’s headline:

Obama to help fund nuclear reactors : GOP energy initiative

And here’s the New York Times:

The announcement of the loan guarantee — $8.3 billion to help the Southern Company and two partners build twin reactors in Burke County — comes as the administration is courting Republican support for its climate and energy policies.

Now, really, we have no problem with characterizing this as a partisan issue in which Obama is bending to the will of the Republicans – Obama has even used it as an example of reaching across the aisle - but that would be closer to the truth if this were President Clinton instead. Nuclear energy might be said to have had more of a partisan profile in earlier decades, but that isn’t nearly as true anymore.

For example, here’s House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland):

I commend President Obama’s commitment to the development of nuclear energy as a clean and safe energy alternative and today’s announcement of a federally-backed project to build the nation’s first nuclear facility in almost 30 years. Enhancing America’s nuclear capacity is a critical component of our strategy to develop clean alternative energies that create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. 

That doesn’t sound too conflicted, does it?

Now, in sum, we really appreciate these stories – they’re balanced in a way that can seem a little “he said-she said” and the drama of Congressional hyper-partisanism is something we will just have to accept as a narrative even if the reality might be more complex. But the stories do give the news its due – this is a sea change in energy policy.

And it is bipartisan.

---

clip_image001A point of curiosity: the loan guarantees have been granted to build two reactors at the Vogtle site in Georgia.

Who was Alvin Ward Vogtle, Jr., after whom the plant is named? According to his 1994 New York Time obituary, he was:

A former president and chairman of the Atlanta-based Southern Company.

Well, that makes sense. But here’s what really caught our eye in the obituary:

Captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Germany, he made four unsuccessful escape attempts. On his fifth try, in 1943, he reached safety by scaling a 14-foot barbed-wire border fence and crossing the Rhine to Switzerland.

That’s dramatic, not to mention heroic. Might make a good movie, no?

Virgil Hilts ([Steve] McQueen's character) was supposedly based on Alvin Vogtle - but while he was at Stammlager Luft III, he did not escape with the other men.

Vogtle’s wikipedia page says this too.

Maybe, maybe not. Our guess: Paul Brickhill, the author of the book The Great Escape, cherry picked elements from several lives to craft his character. If one of those was Vogtle, fine. But Vogtle doesn’t need the boost – he did what he did, and it’s enough. (Still, we hope he was able to say that he was played by Steve McQueen in a movie – why miss the opportunity?)

Further tidbit: the name is pronounced Vogle – silent “t.”

We’ll resist calling this the big dig at the Vogtle site. We love seeing it, though. And Steve McQueen – actor, racing enthusiast – and Alvin Vogtle?

Comments

Phil said…
Makes sense that Hoyer would back nuclear energy. There are a couple new reactors planned for Calvert Cliffs.

Popular posts from this blog

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…