Skip to main content

Lieberman-Warner: "Leave No Fuel Behind"

"Leave no fuel behind," says the Progressive Policy Institute. In her policy report, Finding Common Ground on Cap and Trade, Jan Maruzek, senior scholar at PPI, "advances three principles to help break the present impasse over how to price carbon emissions, how to allocate emissions permits, and how to weigh nuclear power's contribution to America's clean-energy portfolio."

PPI on nuclear's role,
When it comes to clean energy, silver bullets are few and far between. The business of making solar panels, particularly in China, relies on a slew of toxic chemicals. The economic and environmental downsides of biofuels made from food products are coming to light. Renewable sources, while extraordinarily promising, are simply not yet capable of supplying energy in remotely the same quantities as coal, which presently provides 50 percent of U.S. electricity.

Nuclear power generates electricity with no CO2 emissions, but any expansion of this industry begs the question of where to store spent fuel. The truth of the matter is that cutting greenhouse gases by more than one-half by mid-century will require us to harness all of these energy sources. The EPA’s recent economic analysis of the Lieberman-Warner bill assumes, for example, that electricity generated by nuclear power will grow 150 percent and that the nation will soon refine technologies to remove and store carbon from coal-fired electricity plants. Non-fossil energy sources such as biomass, solar, and wind will also provide a growing share of the mix.

In order to develop the most effective emission-reducing combination of energy technologies, we will need to redouble our federal energy-research efforts. For example, we should invest more heavily in such advances as carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems; next-generation nuclear pebble-bed reactors that consume uranium more efficiently and reduce the potential threat of proliferation; and spentfuel reprocessing methods of the kind that the French have safely harnessed for decades.

Finally, and most importantly, PPI supports measures to aggressively expand the use of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal power. Previous iterations of the Lieberman legislative proposal, formerly co-sponsored by Sen. John
McCain (R-Ariz.), would have diverted some revenues from a partial auction to help fund vital research and development into clean energy sources. The current version of the bill still contains support for CCS and renewables, but fails to explicitly mention ways to support next-generation nuclear technologies.

This silence on nuclear energy prompted Sen. McCain to withdraw his support. Some Republicans in the Senate have vowed to add nuclear amendments—a move that led in part to Sen. Boxer’s threat to pull the bill from the floor. As the EPA’s recent economic analysis shows, however, we simply cannot meet our twin goals of climate stabilization and cost reduction without a concerted push into nuclear, CCS, and renewable energy. As it takes up the Lieberman-Warner proposal, the Senate must recognize that we presently are not in a position to take any promising energy source off the table.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…