One of the most interesting races for the Senate this year will be between Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Republican State Assembly member Sharron Angle. Reid has shepherded a fair number of controversial bills through the Senate and the anti-incumbency mood of the nation (however exaggerated – over 90 percent of incumbents have won their primaries) favors Angle. Some scattered polling shows the two about even, but polling is always iffy at such an early stage, with five months of television ads yet to come. Expect no prediction from us. But Reid is a consequential figure, so the battle to come will be of great interest.
Our interest, of course, is how the candidates view nuclear energy. We know it’s an article of political faith in Nevada for politicians to oppose Yucca Mountain as a used fuel repository, and Reid has had the heft to do something about that, but he has generally not been negative about nuclear energy. But – there’s a but. Here’s what he says on his Web site:
Angle’s preference for massive expansion of nuclear energy over new, cutting-edge clean energy technologies being delivered by Sen. Reid should come as no surprise. Angle is hell-bent on transporting America’s nuclear waste across Nevada’s highways and through our communities to reprocess it at Yucca Mountain.
And on Reid’s energy page, he does indeed keep faith with renewable energy:
My legislation will require the President to designate renewable energy zones with significant clean energy generating potential. Then, a massive planning effort will begin in all the interconnection areas of the country to maximize the use of that renewable potential by building new transmission capacity.
Reid’s bill is about transmission lines for renewable sources. Read the whole page: Reid is very green. We get that. Nevada isn’t exactly a state where nuclear energy is a big issue – no plants, for one thing. But Reid has generally been fairly sanguine about it – certainly more so than he seems here. For example, here’s Reid earlier this year with Nevada TV reporter Jon Ralston:
Reid replied, "Scientists are now saying leave the nuclear waste where it is, in deep ground storage. And when I say deep ground, (I mean) 10 feet underground. The new nuclear power plants are going to be built, and it's terrific that the president stepped forward on this. I'm not against nuclear power. I'm against bringing nuclear waste to Nevada. Scientists say leave it where it is. That's what we have to do."
We’d like to have a chat with those scientists, but never mind that for now – the point is that Reid has not been opposed to nuclear energy. It does seem that, for now, at least where he takes a position on energy, it’s for energy efficiency, conservation, renewables, and so on.
Now, you’ll have noticed that Reid tries to pin down Angle as wanting to bring nuclear waste to Nevada – a big problem for Reid if not necessarily Nevada. But that’s not exactly the, er, angle Angle takes. Here’s what she says:
Yucca Mountain has enormous potential for fulfilling the need in America for clean, cost efficient energy, as well as economic diversity for Nevada and much needed jobs for thousands.
Uh, what? Maybe that is her angle:
As your Nevada Senator, Sharron Angle would:
- Promote Nevada as the nuclear energy capital of reprocessing spent fuels for the United States.
- Introduce and shepherd legislation that would remove the prohibitions on reprocessing in the United States as well as the executive order agreement with France, which prohibits reprocessing in the US and has strangled domestic reprocessing.
- Reverse Harry Reid's actions, which have reneged on the contract with the nuclear industry for storage of nuclear spent fuels at Yucca Mountain. This contract should be negotiated in terms of reprocessing those fuels at Yucca Mountain and using those reprocessed fuels to fire nuclear power plants on site at Yucca.
- Educate Nevadans and Americans, on the safe transportation of nuclear spent fuels since 1954 over 400 million miles without an accident.
Can’t fault her for ambition, that’s for sure. The contract Angle refers to is the Nuclear Waste Act and it would take more than renegotiation to shift it to a recycling regime. Also, Reid didn’t pull the plug on Yucca Mountain – President Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu did, though Reid doubtless pressed the point with them and certainly wanted it.
The idea of using Yucca Mountain as a recycling center is an arguable position; siting nuclear plants there, unless she means research reactors, requires a company that wants to do it and a water supply to cool it. And Nevada wanting it, of course – it’s not a federal issue.
Well, all right, some of Angle’s (and Reid’s) points are polititalk, but Angle clearly and openly supports nuclear energy and wants to see its use expanded, including in Nevada.