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The Election and Nuclear Energy

congress There are many post-election news stories that try to explain what the new dynamic in Congress and between Congress and President Obama means for various policies. Energy policy and nuclear energy have not been left out of consideration.

Here’s the New York Times:

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the presumed new House Speaker, may have already etched out the blueprints for a GOP energy bill with the "American Energy Act." That legislation, which he introduced last year, calls for ramping up nuclear energy and offshore drilling as well as creating incentives for renewable energy.

But the Times’ sources think that Republicans’ disdain for large bills will favor “small ball” bills that tackle aspects of an issue, in this case energy and climate change, rather than the whole issue at once:

If comprehensive climate bills -- like the one current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pushed through two years ago -- are the way of the past, some think the Republican path forward may be going "small ball."

Jim Collura, a former staffer for New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg (R), thinks Boehner will dispense with thousand-page bills in favor of piecemeal moves, like a stand-alone bill for clean energy incentives or a bipartisan renewable electricity standard.

And of course, there are bills from both sides of the aisle that zero in on nuclear energy. These may find new life in Congress.


Think Progress notes that half the incoming group of Republicans do not think global warming is occurring (or, if it is, that human activity is not exacerbating it). But that means half do think it is occurring and requires action. Additionally, of course, a number of members who retained their seats on both sides of the aisle also consider it an important issue:

– Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R- Florida): “Global warming is real and man-made.”

– Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.): “The science behind climate change is sound.”

– Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Penn.): “Congressman Gerlach believes we have a responsibility as legislators and citizens to reduce our imprint on the Earth and reverse the effects of science-based climate change for both current and future generations.”

– Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virginia): “I believe that global warming is real. The National Academy of Sciences has presented evidence that the Earth’s surface is warming because of human activities, including increased worldwide industrial development, over the past several decades.”

Nuclear energy, of course, answers to this issue. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is quite explicit about this:

"Through a greater commitment to nuclear, we have a unique opportunity to cut greenhouse gases, provide stability to our electrical supply and create jobs," Upton told Reuters.

All true. And although President Obama will be proceeding with a different governing dynamic, his consistent support for nuclear energy could well increase as a way to find common ground.

“There’s been discussion about how we can restart our nuclear industry as a means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gases,” Obama said during a speech the day after the midterm elections. “Is that an area where we can move forward?”

We vote yes.


All elections provide elation and hope for some and despair for others. That’s as true for those in the nuclear energy sphere as in any other. But I prefer hope, especially as the fluid nature of American politics makes it very difficult to really make sure predictions.

In that vein, let’s let Alternate Energy Holding’s CEO Don Gillispie have the last word:

When the history of nuclear power is written, Nov. 2, 2010 will be a major turning point for the industry," said Gillispie. "It will mark the beginning of a dramatic resurgence for nuclear power."

He may be right, he may be wrong. But there’s no quibbling with his right to hope and elation.

A weapon that comes down as still; As snowflakes fall upon the sod;
But executes a freeman's will; As lightning does the will of God;
And from its force nor doors nor locks; Can shield you,'tis the ballot-box.

By John Pierpont (1785-1866)


Philip said…
Reid is still majority leader in the Senate and he is quite stubborn (irrationally so IMO) in regards to the permanent repository at Yucca Mountain.

His shameless fear mongering commercials indicate that his attitude is not likely to change.
Brian Mays said…
"Think Progress notes that half the incoming group of Republicans do not think global warming is occurring (or, if it is, that human activity is not exacerbating it)."

Why should this be surprising? It sounds to me like the Republicans have the pulse of the nation -- which, I suppose, is why they won so big this week.

If Think Progress would just pull its head out of its hole, it would realize that

- Almost half (48%) of Americans believe that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated

- Almost half (47%) are not willing to say that global warming is real and that the effects of the problem have already begun

- Two-thirds (67%) think that global warming will never affect them

- Only half (50%) believe that any temperature increases are due to human activities

- Almost half (48%) of Americans do not think that most scientists believe that global warming is occurring


Global warming is not a winning issue.
gunter said…
I find it ironic that the record national deficeit created during the Republican Bush Administration was so skillfully used to hammer the Democrats in mid-term elections.

It is just as ironic that now one of Obama's olive branches to these new fiscally "conservative" Republicans represents tens of billions of dollars in more deficeit spending for toxic loans to a supposely mature nuclear industry.

No doubt, in stark contrast to the Republican campaign sloganeering for federal fiscal austerity, these new negotiations will now focus on eliminating the "credit subsidy cost" so as to shift all of this high risk financing onto the federal taxpayer.

This is no different than handing a shovel to the man stuck at the bottom of a deep hole so he can get out. But Obama appears to be desperate enough to take up the shovel.

That's a loser, everytime, particularly with the nuclear power financing track record.
Anonymous said…
If nuclear power is such a horrible investment, then why are there 60 reactors under construction globally and hundreds more in the planning phase? Money talks, and the money globally is on nuclear. It is impossible to decarbonize without lots of new nuclear, and the world is embracing this fact. Nuclear is Obama's only real angle to decarbonize the US, and he knows it. Cap and tax has failed. The only thing that he can do now is throw more money at nuclear to help it overcome.
gunter said…
Answer: The new reactors under construction are in very large part backed and built on the government dole as is being angled for US.

I beg to differ with anon, the global money backed by entreprenuers and business is on renewable wind energy, both offshore and land based turbines.
Far more wind energy is coming online globally each year quicker and cheaper than new nuclear. Wind capacity is about to competitively blow nuclear away over the next two decades and that's according to DOE documents.

This only underscores the mistake to invest another dime in new reactors.
JD said…

How is it you continue to pretend that renewables don't receive help from governments?

Have you never heard of a solar feed-in tariff? Loan guarantee programs for renewables? Renewable energy standards - which mandate investment in renewables? Production tax credits for wind energy? Tax credits for installing solar panels at your house?

What say you to this?

Also, please quit talking about wind capacity as if it is a meaningful comparison. Wind power is severely limited by its intermittent nature, which is ignored during discussions of capacity alone. Check out Bonneville Power Administration's wind generation statistics -- in any given week there are usually two to three days of negligible output from their wind farms:

At the time I'm posting this, the data for 4-6 November is visible: three days at below 10% capacity factor for wind. The best performance is 7-8 November which is an average capacity factor of around 66%. Then it drops down to about 3% the next day. Yet gunter's talk of wind capacity implies BPA's 3011 MW of wind capacity is a meaningful number. I challenge anyone to look at the BPA graphs and tell me that "3011 MW capacity" is a useful way to look at wind generation (blue line).
gunter said…
Did I say that renewables were undeserving of investments with low risk great return? Or incentives to advance and accelerate development and deployment?

The "permanent financing platform" with federal money that NEI seeks for nuke federal loans is more akin to a permanent umbilical cord.

Will wind and solar energy have to go hat in hand year by year to ask for tax credits from a Congress still in the pocket of dirty fossil and fissile power?
Brian Mays said…
gunter: "the global money backed by entreprenuers [sic] and business is on renewable wind energy..."

Yes, I see what you mean. Let's take a look at what these "entrepreneurs" are doing:

Italian Mafia Gets in the Wind Farm Business

The Italian Mafia is Making Money with Wind Power

Mafia 'Hits' EU Wind Subsidies

Italian Mafia Cleans Up with Wind Energy

Mafia 'Wind-Leader' Busted

I guess these wise guys found a deal that they couldn't refuse. ;-)

Wind is a scam, pure and simple. Even the biggest crooks in the world realize this, and they're making a killing from the naivete of EU bureaucrats, who buy into the BS that people like gunter are shoveling.

Apparently, the only thing "renewable" about wind is the fraud and waste of government money.

Let's hope that the new US Congress is not stupid enough to get taken in by the scams and fraud that have robbed Europe of millions, perhaps billions, of euros.
gunter said…
Are you saying that the likes of GE or NextEra (aka FP&L)and others are all connected to the Mob,Brian?
Isnt this comment a little out there on the fringe of reality?
Brian Mays said…
Gunter, are you saying that you don't know the previous name of GE's wind turbine business line?

Here, I'll tell you. It used to be known as Enron Wind.

Yes, that Enron -- not quite the Mob, but pretty damn close.

I'm quite comfortable with my earlier comment. Thanks for asking.
gunter said…
Are we now saying that Eron invented a wind turbine scam too?
Isnt that like the that the Grassy Knoll in Roswell? They are not even around in a business of any sort.

CNN.Money sums it up today in "No Money, No Nukes" that "the problem is, of course, there is no money."

And, hmmm, they seem too say that investing in new nukes is very risky business.

They fail to mentiom the most recent example of Constellation's cut and run on UniStar and the EPR fiasco over several hundred million dollars of their own money for an unacceptable risk.
JD said…

And how's the money going in the renewable sector?

Solydra - given a DOE loan guarantee for green jobs, now closing down a manufacturing plant and laying off workers.

First Wind - recently cancelled its upcoming IPO. Lost $61 million last year. First Wind is an investor in the Deepwater Wind project that was unanimously rejected in Rhode Island for being unreasonably unexpensive.,53407,49513

Sinovel - Chinese wind turbine maker had a hearing for an upcoming IPO cancelled because it's under investigation by China's securities regulator. Perhaps the next example for Brian to point to of wind fraud? We shall see.

Blue Ribbon Energy - got its wind farm denied in Idaho.

PG&E - abandoning plans to build 5 MW tidal energy generator in California.

Severn estuary tidal - plan abandoned by the UK because it was just too expensive.

You see, gunter? This is easy to do, finding examples that prove one side of the story. Of course, not all renewable energy projects are being cancelled. And of course the same is true of nuclear.

Stop pretending that the financial problems facing clean energy are only affecting nuclear. Stop pretending that the government support for clean energy is only given to nuclear. I'm tired of you.
Brian Mays said…
Gunter, the executives of Enron knew a good scam when they saw one. Thus, it's not surprising that they had invested in wind. They were involved in a scandal so massive that it took down one of the "Big Five" accounting firms. That's quite an accomplishment.

So we have the Italian Mafia and corporate scammers of epic proportions. That's the global money that has been chasing wind.

By the way, speaking of examples of "cut and run," have you looked at the recent news in the wind industry?

Here are some additions for JD's list:

Vestas to close five wind turbine plants - Vestas, the Danish wind turbine manufacturer, will cut 3,000 jobs as a result of the closures.

For Wind Turbine Manufacturers, the Layoffs Begin - North Dakota-based D.M.I. Industries, which manufactures turbine towers, is laying off 20 percent of its workers across three plants - in Tulsa, Okla.; Stevensville, Ontario; and West Fargo, N.D.

Wind Layoffs Continue: Acciona Cutting a Third of Workers at Iowa Plant Layoffs continue to blow through the wind industry, even despite recent government efforts to build up the sector and spur green job growth. Acciona Windpower's workforce has taken the latest hit.

Pipestone wind-turbine factory idled; 110 layoffs - Suzlon Group's Pipestone factory, which once employed 500 people, will lay off most of its remaining workers as U.S. demand for wind power sits becalmed for now.

And this is after government has thrown massive amounts of subsidies at this industry.

Let's not kid ourselves about why investors would want to invest in wind. They're going after the government subsidies. It makes them some money, but it hurts the taxpayer and the consumer. An example from Spain is quite instructive:

Spain Said to Save $1.5 Billion on Wind Power Cuts -- Spain will save consumers at least 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion) through 2013 by cutting the subsidies they pay to wind farms and solar thermal plants, a person familiar with the government's analysis said.
gunter said…
No question, the global economy is tanking for lots of reasons.

We can point to examples of the renewable energy renaissance, just look at Google laying down the first vertabrae of the Eastern Seaboard offshore HVDC transmission line for deepwater wind.

However, a tanking economy only accentuates the irony of sinking more deficeit spending into high-risk toxic nuclear ventures.

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