Skip to main content

The Energy Budget Request 2011: Prelude

steve-chu_1203731c The Department of Energy’s 2011 budget request is excellent in recognizing the value of nuclear energy, mostly by simply shifting sums around to favor research a little more and increasing the loan guarantee authority to ensure more plants can be built. We’ll have more details about the budget request a little later today.

In the meantime, we thought we’d provide a little context for the nuclear good news the budget request contains. After all, many nuclear advocates thought Barack Obama’s election would have dire consequences for the growth of nuclear energy in this country. That hasn’t proven to be true, in large part due to the climate change issue, which has allowed the benefits of nuclear energy to shine out, perhaps also in part due to the appointment of the nuclear friendly Steven Chu to head the Department of Energy.

We’ve mentioned before that President Obama tends to revisit an issue several times before settling on an approach (admittedly, we were talking about a short-lived USEC controversy). For most nuclear energy advocates, his somewhat muted support (certainly present but not forcefully expressed) during the campaign caused alarm, especially contrasted with Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) full-out embrace.

But consider Obama’s view now, essentially a follow-up to his unexpected decision to lead off the energy portion of his first State of the Union by extolling the benefits of nuclear energy, expressed during his recent You Tube interview (scroll to the 32 minute mark – this is our transcription):

Nuclear energy has the advantage of not emitting greenhouse gases. For those who are concerned about climate change, we have to recognize that countries like Japan and France and others have been much more aggressive in their nuclear industry and much more successful in having that a larger part of their portfolio, without incident, without accidents. We're mindful of the concerns about storage, of spent fuel, and concerns about security, but we still think it's the right thing to do if we're serious about dealing with climate change.

While the shuttering of the Yucca Mountain used fuel repository (we’ll have more on that later, too) and the long gap between announcing the blue ribbon commission exploring alternatives to Yucca Mountain and appointing its members caused consternation among many advocates (as we’ve seen in our comments), 2009 saw the verbal tone turn strikingly positive. Various administration figures, including EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Presidential advisor Carol Browner and Chu himself, gave nuclear its due and not grudgingly, either.

For example, here’s a recent quote from Chu on Bloomberg News:

“We think that [the increased loan guarantee authority] is going to enable industry to invest in 7-10 new nuclear reactors. With that, there should be enough confidence that the private sector can pick this up. That’s always been our plan. To get it started. Show that you can build reactors on budget, on time. And then let the rest be taken up by the private sector.”

That’s actually as good a rationale for the loan guarantee program (which the budget request triples, to $54 billion) as any we’ve seen – and puts the onus for it succeeding on the industry, where it belongs. But that’s what needed and Chu recognizes it.

More to come. Stay tuned.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Comments

SteveK9 said…
The last comment by Chu is perfect.

President Obama may have taken a while (1 year) to get here, but he has had a couple of other things on his mind as well.

Popular posts from this blog

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

New Home for Our Blog: Join Us on NEI.org

On February 27, NEI launched the new NEI.org. We overhauled the public site, framing all of our content around the National Nuclear Energy Strategy.

So, what's changed?

Our top priority was to put you, the user, first. Now you can quickly get the information you need. You'll enjoy visiting the site with its intuitive navigation, social media integration and compelling and shareable visuals. We've added a feature called Nuclear Now, which showcases the latest industry news and resources like fact sheets and reports. It's one of the first sections you'll see on our home page and it can be accessed anywhere throughout the site by clicking on the atom symbol in the top right corner of the page.
Most importantly for you, our loyal NEI Nuclear Notes readers, is that we've migrated the blog to the new site. Moving forward, all blog posts will be published in the News section, along with our press releases, Nuclear Energy Overview stories and more. Just look for the &qu…

Hurricane Harvey Couldn't Stop the South Texas Project

As Hurricane Harvey battered southeast Texas over the past week, the devastation and loss of life in its wake have kept our attention and been a cause of grief.

Through the tragedy, many stories of heroics and sacrifice have emerged. Among those who have sacrificed are nearly 250 workers who have been hunkered down at the South Texas Project (STP) nuclear plant in Matagorda County, Texas.

STP’s priorities were always the safety of their employees and the communities they serve. We are proud that STP continued to operate at full power throughout the storm. It is a true testament to the reliability and resiliency of not only the operators but of our industry.

The world is starting to notice what a feat it is to have maintained operations through the catastrophic event. Forbes’ Rod Adams did an excellent job describing the contribution of these men and women:

“STP storm crew members deserve to be proud of the work that they are doing. Their families should take comfort in the fact that…