Skip to main content

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?

Comments

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.

Popular posts from this blog

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.


Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…