Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Move Along, Nothing to See Here: The President’s Uncontroversial Comments About Nuclear Energy

Favorite reactor to President Obama’s climate change speech has to be this headline from Power Engineering:

Reaction to Obama climate speech varies by interest group

Who’da thunk it? The article does supply a roundup of “interest group” reactions. Here’s NEI President and CEO Marv Fertel for nuclear energy:

[A]tomic power is critical to any domestic climate plan. "There is no debating this fact: Nuclear energy produces nearly two-thirds of America's carbon-free electricity,” Fertel said.

So no debating – since it’s true – and it’s also true that nuclear energy will claim a large share of the carbon-free electricity pie for a long time to come.

In all, the President’s shout-out to nuclear energy was not controversial, perhaps surprisingly so. Fertel is stating a simple truth that is generally accepted. Even the staunchest anti-nuclear advocate must be fairly sanguine by now about Obama’s view of the atom and can only sigh at the injustice of it all.

If there will be controversy arising from the speech, it is more likely to stem from the disposition of the Keystone XL pipeline (about which we have no brief) and perhaps the blunt force use of the Environmental Protection Agency to bring about change. The Washington Post put it like this:

Though these rules will presumably apply to many different kinds power stations, the EPA will probably aim its new restrictions at the very dirtiest — those that burn coal, spewing a toxic mixture of gases and particles into the atmosphere in the process. There are a variety of reasons to phase out widespread coal burning, having to do with public health and environmental protection.

This is pretty over-the-top – all that’s lacking is the coal industry chasing Little Nell out onto the thin ice – and it’s all too familiar to a nuclear industry that’s been in the crosshairs itself. But let the American Coal Council make that case.

But I saw nothing in the mainstream press suggesting that Obama’s support for nuclear energy was anything to even note. Even pro-nuclear sites like Nuclear Street were left with very little to say about it:

In a speech announcing the plan, the president made an early reference to Generation III reactors under construction at the Vogtle and V.C. Summer nuclear plants: "Thanks to the ingenuity of our businesses, we're starting to produce much more of our own energy.  We're building the first nuclear power plants in more than three decades in Georgia and South Carolina."

So there it is: nuclear was in the speech and is recognized as a means to achieve the president’s goals. Any controversy has nothing whatever to do with nuclear energy. It is what it is.

And it’s about time, isn’t it?


Anonymous said...

From the speech: " Going forward, we will expand these efforts to promote nuclear energy generation consistent with maximizing safety and nonproliferation goals."

Sounds positive, right? Until you realize this is from the prez that appointed the NRC chairman (Jaczko) who believed the only safe plants are those shut down. So the "consistent with maximizing safety goal" changes the entire meaning. Orwellian doublespeak.

Anonymous said...

" Going forward, we will expand these efforts to promote nuclear energy generation consistent with maximizing safety and nonproliferation goals." Note that that was said in the context of U.S. activities abroad to combat climate change. The speech outlined executive actions to double renewables, encourage natgas generation, even a loan guarantee for clean coal. The world "nuclear" was mentioned just once, and that only pointing out that the first two plants had begun construction in decades in Ga. and S.C. (and inaccurately, btw, considering fed. corporation TVA is also building Watts Bar 2).

If nuclear makes up two-thirds of the non-carbon emitting pie, why such a scanty mention? Not controversial, but absolutely noteworthy.