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

Knowing What You’ve Got Before It’s Gone in Nuclear Energy

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior director of policy analysis and strategic planning at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

Nuclear energy is by far the largest source of carbon prevention in the United States, but this is a rough time to be in the business of selling electricity due to cheap natural gas and a flood of subsidized renewable energy. Some nuclear plants have closed prematurely, and others likely will follow.
In recent weeks, Exelon and the Omaha Public Power District said that they might close the Clinton, Quad Cities and Fort Calhoun nuclear reactors. As Joni Mitchell’s famous song says, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
More than 100 energy and policy experts will gather in a U.S. Senate meeting room on May 19 to talk about how to improve the viability of existing nuclear plants. The event will be webcast, and a link will be available here.
Unlike other energy sources, nuclear power plants get no specia…

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…