Skip to main content

Billionaire’s Nuclear Dream: House of Cards Returns for Season 2


D.C., rejoice! Season 2 of "House of Cards" is almost here. If you haven’t seen the first season, spend your snow day binge-watching because tomorrow we get the next chapter in this thrilling political drama. The award-winning series—centered on Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood, House Majority Whip and ultimate political schemer—is filled with nuanced characters, excellent performances and unexpected plot twists.

Want an even better reason to watch? Nuclear energy gets some time to shine. Energy is touched upon peripherally throughout the series, and by season's end, the plot hits upon the nation’s energy supply and nuclear’s role in it. For those wanting a quick recap of how nuclear energy ties in during season 1, read on.

[Spoilers ahead] In the penultimate episode, Underwood visits billionaire Raymond Tusk to vet him as a possible replacement for Vice President. Tusk, an influential friend of the President, is a big investor in nuclear power:
Underwood: You think I could get a tour of your Fulton Plant while I’m in town?

Tusk: If you’d like, but I don’t know why you’d want to be there when you can be out here.

Underwood: I’ve never seen a nuclear plant.

Tusk: Not much to see. Steel. Concrete. A lot of steam.

Underwood: The President hasn't exactly been a big supporter of nuclear power. Is that part of your hesitation, the fear that the administration might –

Tusk: He's just being savvy. Nuclear energy is a tough sell after Japan. But it's the only option we have right now that doesn't completely trash the planet. The argument against nuclear power is an emotional one.
[Bigger spoilers ahead] We later find out that Tusk has actually been vetting Underwood for the Vice Presidency during this visit. Tusk offers his stamp of approval provided that Underwood returns “one and only one” favor (one which is quite the anticlimactic reveal given the dark turns this series took before this point, but I digress). Not willing to be controlled, Underwood doesn’t even wait to hear what Tusk wants. He tries to set up a hostile takeover of Tusk's nuclear subsidiaries to distract him and ultimately stop him from becoming the nominee for Vice President.

In the end, Tusk outmaneuvers Underwood in a way that ensures his nuclear investments won’t be touched. He is still willing to back Underwood for Vice President, as long as Underwood uses his influence to secure favorable trade tariffs with China. Why? Tusk needs Samarium-149 for his reactors, and “China controls 95% of the world’s supply.”

Admittedly, the end of the season is where the plot is weakest and starts departing from reality. But what the writers do get right is the influential billionaire investing in nuclear energy and China becoming a major player in the nuclear industry.

Regardless of some flawed logic, this storyline accurately reflects the growing importance of nuclear and its role in a diverse energy mix. Tune in tomorrow to see where it goes in season 2.

Side note: Most of the characters involved in this storyline are motivated by personal gain, but Tusk may truly care about promoting a clean, affordable and reliable energy source for America. He seems at least partly motivated by the fact that nuclear energy won’t destroy the 6,000 acres in his backyard. (That’s correct, 6,000.) Maybe this pro-nuclear billionaire is really being positioned as the good guy. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for his newsboy cap and recitation of Walt Whitman. Guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

Comments

jimwg said…
It's funny how a fictional Billionaire's passion about nuclear energy is getting more play and air time than real-life ones (Gates, Paul Allen, etc). When are these guys going to pop up their heads and publicly cheer-lead nuclear? They're NOT going to have a place to site their hoped-for plants if the public is scared of them! I didn't see the series but I hope it ends positively with nukes saving the day instead of another cliche accident to royally soil everyone's day.

James Greenidge
Queens NY
House of Cards is a great show.

I just hope I don't watch them all too quickly this time:-)

Popular posts from this blog

Knowing What You’ve Got Before It’s Gone in Nuclear Energy

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior director of policy analysis and strategic planning at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

Nuclear energy is by far the largest source of carbon prevention in the United States, but this is a rough time to be in the business of selling electricity due to cheap natural gas and a flood of subsidized renewable energy. Some nuclear plants have closed prematurely, and others likely will follow.
In recent weeks, Exelon and the Omaha Public Power District said that they might close the Clinton, Quad Cities and Fort Calhoun nuclear reactors. As Joni Mitchell’s famous song says, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
More than 100 energy and policy experts will gather in a U.S. Senate meeting room on May 19 to talk about how to improve the viability of existing nuclear plants. The event will be webcast, and a link will be available here.
Unlike other energy sources, nuclear power plants get no specia…

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…