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Reid and Angle on Nuclear Energy

sharron-anglex-large 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.

Sharron Angle.


SteveK9 said…
Unfortunately whether you agree with Angle's take on nuclear power (I do), she is a lunatic and will not be elected. If the GOP had nominated almost any sane person, they could probably have defeated Reid.
DocForesight said…
@SteveK9 -- Pertaining to Angle's statements about nuclear energy, what has she said that makes you label her a "lunatic"?

Your being an advocate of nuclear power, it would seem Reid's embrace of intermittent, unreliable, as-yet undeveloped, unscalable, otherwise nuisance power, is more along the lines of 'lunacy'. And a waste of taxpayer dollars and valuable time.
al fin said…
Yep, Reid is the lunatic if anyone is.

Down with the incumbency of energy starvation.
Phil said…
"We’d like to have a chat with those scientists"

I LOLed when I read that sentence. :)
Fordi said…
Shipping the stuff from the reactors they will ultimately be reused in is kinda dumb. A reprocessing center is a relatively small build compared to a reactor, and makes the waste problem go away.

Given that nuclear fuel can be reused a minimum of 20 times, it seems flat out dumb to ship the stuff to a place where you can mine it anyway.

Keep it where it is, and build small reprocessing plants alongside the power stations that will exploit them.
Anonymous said…
I'm not sure how Fordi managed to cram at least 3 major factual errors into such a short post.

A reprocessing plant is a large, heavily shielded factory that even its advocates agree would cost over $20 billion. It is not at all a "small build" compared to a reactor. No one is proposing each NPP have its own repro plant ... except for some unusual Gen IV designs.

SNF cannot be reused "at least 20 times." Recovered plutonium can be run through an LWR as MOX at most 3-4 times, according to French research.

And as I need not explain to most readers on this board, reprocessing does not "make the waste problem go away." It arguably reduces the volume and long-term radioactivity of high level waste, but increases the amount of LLW and increases repository heat loading for HLW in the short term.

If there were easy answers, don't you think they'd have been adopted long ago?
JD said…
Anyone see today's Washington Post?

Three Mile Island made the list of top 5 or so contenders for worse environmental disaster than the current gulf spill.

It's pretty amazing. Of course when they explain why it makes the list it is obvious it shouldn't be on the list.
Anonymous said…
I had high expectations that Reid would be booted out of office so that consideration of Yucca Mountain might resume, but Nevada Republicans may well have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with its selection of Angle. When a GOP selection has the Democrats dancing in the hallways you know it isn't a good sign. It is going to be too easy for Reid to paint Angle as a global warming denying birther Tea Party wing nut.
Anonymous said…
Reid's campaign funded attack ads against Sue Lowden, the moderate Republican. Reid is a 100% political animal. He has always taken a take-no-prisoners approach to politics, and rules today by intimidation. He is feared and respected, but not admired. The downfall of political leaders who govern by fear is usually abrupt, and after they disappear very few regret the fact that they are gone.
There are other sources of nuclear power!

I have recently been introduced to Thorium….. Thanks to similar radioactive properties to the uranium used to power the world’s nuclear reactors – and its by product, plutonium, used in nuclear weapons – thorium can also be used to power a controlled nuclear reaction that heats water, producing steam to power turbines that produce large quantities of electricity.

PLUS POINT: From an environmental perspective, the good news about thorium is that it’s far less radioactively damaging than uranium: its naturally occurring form, monazite, is said to be reasonably safe for human exposure, while the waste products from its use in a nuclear reactor decay remain dangerous for only a fraction as long – decades instead of thousands of years, by some accounts.

So Uranium and Plutonium can take thousands of years to decay safely, but Thorium does it in just a few decades?

Read on.............
Phil said…
Wow, just me in t. You just discovered Thorium, huh? Wow.

Amazingly, you'll probably find that many of the people posting comments on the NEI's blog have already heard of this fantastic element. It holds a great deal of promise!

Next project is to read up on the metallurgy technology that's going to be required to make Th work in practical reality.

Doc, it appears to me that nobody answered your questions as to why Angle is a lunatic. Google her recent invocations of "Second Amendment remedies" for a colorful example of her nuttiness.

Between Angle and Paul it looks like the politically infantile "Tea Party" crowd are doing their best to elect Democrats.
DocForesight said…
@Phil - Thanks but I prefer live interviews with knowledgeable hosts asking pertinent questions, not just "gotcha" verbal ambushes.

Time will tell how Nevadans respond to Reid's tactics. His labeling of many of them as dolts and ignorant won't sit well. That he is widely disliked and seen as a pawn to the hard Left when the electorate is generally center-right will make his re-election less certain.

And Phil, you didn't answer my question pertaining to Angle's statement on nuclear energy. You switched subjects to the 2nd Amendment. Try again.
sefarkas said…
Senator Harry Reid needs to go if for no other crime than foisting Dr. Jacko on the nuclear industry via the chairmanship of the NRC. If Sharon Angle's the way to get Reid out, then so be it.

On 28Apr08, Nevada Senator Harry Reid today swore in Gregory B. Jaczko for a second term as a commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in a ceremony in the U.S. Capitol. Immediately prior to assuming the post of Commissioner, Dr. Jaczko served as appropriations director for U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and also served as the Senator's science policy advisor. He began his Washington, D.C., career as a congressional science fellow in the office of U.S. Rep. Edward Markey. Recall that Markey is a veteran anti-nuclear shill.

"I'm very happy Dr. Jaczko will serve a second term as an NRC Commissioner," Reid said. "Having worked directly with him, I know he will continue to ensure the safety and security of nuclear power plants." Jaczko, the Reid web site noted, is one of five commissioners who will vote on plans for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump.

A physicist, Jaczko was to join the NRC board in 2004, but his confirmation was blocked by Republicans following strong objections from the nuclear power industry. Industry officials contended Jaczko is biased against the proposed Nevada nuclear waste repository while he is at the agency. Reid said Jaczko is qualified and would be fair. Responding to Republican opposition to Jaczko in 2004, Reid blocked dozens of Bush nominees for federal posts, an impasse that persisted until the final night of the session.

Jacko was designated Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission by President Barack Obama on May 13, 2009.
Phil said…
Doc your question is irrelevant. Her stance on nuclear energy has nothing to do with her being a lunatic.

Her lunacy is revealed in her statements regarding the "Second Amendment remedies". She volunteered her nutty statements on her own; they were not the result of '"gotcha" verbal ambushes'.

Look it up. Google makes it easy. One mminute is all it took to come up with this:

“You know our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying, ‘My goodness, what can we do to turn this country around?’ I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.”

That is crazy talk.
Bryen Cheng said…
Personally I think Angle is right; nuclear energy should be used in NV. It's clean, incredibly efficient, and safe (
DocForesight said…
@Phil -- I was trying to keep the comments related to the main topic of this blog, which is nuclear energy and that is what Angle and Reid are debating.

If this were a site devoted to 2nd Amendment issues then your point would be more pertinent. I don't want to bore the other posters here and I suspect neither do you.

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