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Murkowski Demurs, Obama Concurs

Murkowski Legislature Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who is ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources committee gave a speech on the Senate floor the other day:

Let’s start with nuclear energy.  During his remarks two weeks ago, the President indicated his support for a “new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.”  And to the Administration’s credit, it followed through on that one in the budget request. 

That’s pretty good – even though Alaska has no nuclear energy plants, Murkowski has always been in favor of its use. She does note some frustrations, though.

As I’ve said before, allowing the Department of Energy to guarantee more loans for nuclear plants is a step in the right direction.  But I’d remind you – it’s been a year now, and this Administration has yet to help finance a single nuclear project.


Of course, we also need to make sure America is producing the raw materials used to generate nuclear energy.  Here, again, the Administration took a step backward last year by withdrawing roughly 1 million acres of uranium-rich lands in Arizona.  As a result, our nation has lost access to some of its highest-grade uranium reserves.

These inconsistent policy issues aside, though, Murkowski is generally content with the administration’s approach to nuclear energy.

Murkowski’s contentedness ends when she gets to gas and oil, which are very important to her home state. We’ll let you discover that part for yourself.


Obama had a rope line conversation with 1Sky’s Gillian Caldwell about advanced coal power plants (she doesn’t like them) that gave a clearer sense of the President’s views of renewable and non-renewable energy sources than anything we’ve seen before:

Caldwell: It’s got to be renewable energy. No more clean coal.

Obama: No, no, no… I disagree with you. I disagree with you. I'm going to defend… We are not going to get all our energy from wind and solar in the next 20 years…

Caldwell: Can't the market do it? Can't the market make the investment?

Obama: They can’t do it. The technology’s not there. I’ve got a nuclear physicist as my Department of Energy who cares more about climate change than anything and he will tell you you can’t get it done just through that – so you’ve got to have a transition period and do all this other stuff. Don’t be stubborn about it!

See the whole thing here.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)


Brian Mays said…
Since when did Chu become a "nuclear physicist"?

I'd call him an atomic physicist or perhaps a bio-molecular physicist, but as far as I know, he has done no work in nuclear physics.

For those who don't know, "atomic physics" and "nuclear physics" are two separate fields.
Anonymous said…
For those who don't know, "atomic physics" and "nuclear physics" are two separate fields.

Obama's a lawyer.
d said…
I'd give POTUS a break on that distinction, too. Plus he's recognizing the inherent limitations of "renewables" and that it will take more time for the technology to arrive, if ever.
2dy said…
I don't know, so what is the distinction? Nuclear physicist would be someone who studies the physics of the interaction of protons, neutrons and other particles found in or near the nucleus of atoms. It would seem to me that nuclear physics would be a subset of atomic physics, which might also include electrons and positrons and how they interact with matter?

Help me out here, please, Brian.
Anonymous said…
There are some commonalities between atomic and nuclear physics (e.g., the use of quantum theory as the basis for descriptions of various phenomena), but in other ways they stand separately. Atomic physics generally considered atoms as electrons and a nucleus in isolation. Nuclear physics confined itself to the structure and phenomena associated with the nucleus.

I was trained as a nuclear physicist (experimental) and we had to understand some atomic theory and dealt with various atomic phenomena as starting points for experiments (e.g., generation of ions to form an accelerator beam). But beyond a certain point, the realm was exclusively nuclear physics (nuclear reactions, structure, transitions, etc.).

Yes, we should probably go a little easy on Obama on this one. The guy is a lawyer and former community organizer (whatever that is). Jimmy Carter made a claim at one point to being a "nuclear physicist", while in fact he was (marginally) a nuclear engineer. So there isn't a great track history of Presidents understanding the somewhat finer distinctions in the various subjects.
Brian Mays said…
Simply put, the boundary where atomic physics ends and nuclear physics begins is traditionally at the outside surface of the nucleus. Atomic physics concerns itself mostly with what happens to the electrons outside, which are located in "clouds" around the nucleus. Nuclear physics (as the name implies) is concerned with what happens in the nucleus and with the subatomic particles that reside there.

Of course, the boundary isn't always cut and dry, and there is much room for overlap between these two fields.

My reaction was more of one of amusement than anything else -- the way that you might snicker when someone mispronounces a word that you are familiar with. I guess that we should all be happy that Obama is using the word "nuclear" in a positive sense, even if technically he didn't use it correctly.
Anonymous said…
Not naming names, but I just wish all Alaska politicians were so capable of critical thought and use of the English language.
Anonymous said…
Would any nuclear Navy veterans on this blog care to comment on the claim above that successfully completing USN reactor training, as former President Carter did, only makes one "marginally" a nuclear engineer?
Anonymous said…
No need to comment. Carter's Navy record, while respectable, was not remarkable. Carter was appointed to the US Naval Academy in 1943 and graduated 59th in his class. He entered active service and believed he would make a career in the Navy (allegedly aspiring to Chief of Naval Operations). He decided service in submarines was the quickest way to command and promotion and served on the diesel-electric boat USS Pomfret. Lieutenant (O3) Carter was in training to be the Engineering Officer for the new (at the time) nuclear submarine Seawolf when his father died and he resigned his commission after 6 years of service. Carter never was the Engineering Officer of a nuclear powered submarine. He apparently had completed a qualification course for command of a diesel-electric submarine, but as a Lt (much less Ensign or Lt [JG]) was never assigned to command a submarine.

Does this make him "marginal"? It'a all a matter of perspective. His experience is not zero, obviously. But he certainly lacks the experience and training of more senior officers, and perhaps enlisted as well. I've known Chiefs who were probably more knowledgeable and experienced. Same with Division Officers and COs.

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