Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Obama's Nuclear Power Gambit

President Obama announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for construction of two nuclear power plants. That's a good start, but it ignores key problems with getting the nuclear power industry jump started.

Loan guarantees do nothing to stop the NIMBYism that thwarts construction of any and all kinds of power plants or transmission lines. The President can throw his support to the nuclear industry, but environmentalists who oppose nuclear power can undermine the President's agenda by mounting opposition campaigns to prevent construction; when that happens the loan guarantees are meaningless.

We need strong and effective leadership on pushing ahead with a nuclear power renaissance in the US; the necessity of building new nuclear power plants is here to stay as the US needs a stable source of power that doesn't include emissions found with oil, gas, or coal and which has a smaller footprint per megawatt of power produced than wind or solar.

It means showing decisive leadership and devoting far more than loan guarantees to nuclear power.

It means finally building and bringing on line the national waste depository at Yucca Mountain.Yet, the President is pushing the same line as Harry Reid:
Sanford accused Obama of making a "Chicago-style" political play to help Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who faces a tough re-election bid in a state where the Yucca Mountain plan was unpopular. But the White House points out that the president opposed the site since he was campaigning as a candidate, on the grounds of scientific and security questions.

Reid echoed those security concerns, saying any transportation of nuclear materials across the country could open a vulnerability.

"Leave it on-site where it is," he said last year. "You don't have to worry about transporting it. Saves the country billions and billions of dollars."

Currently, 70,000 tons of radioactive waste are stored at more than 100 nuclear sites around the country, and 2,000 tons are added every year.
It saves the country billions of dollars in security costs for maintaining more than 100 secure facilities rather than a single facility? And what of the billions collected in taxes from the nuclear plant operators to fund Yucca Mt. and the national waste repository? Where's that money?

It means making sure that transmission lines needed to distribute the power from the new power facilities gets built.

It means standing up to Democrats like Harry Reid who have opposed Yucca Mountain and working closer with Republicans to finally give the US reason to hope that there's a coherent national energy policy in the offing. And it would mean an effective national energy policy that doesn't even have to refer to global warming and climate change to be successful - one can completely avoid that entire area of science all while advocating for nuclear power precisely because it would reduce particulate emissions, promote national security by reducing reliance on imported oil from unstable parts of the world, extend supply and reserves of oil causing a drop in the costs, and can actually seed the growth of electric vehicles since the energy production would not merely shift emissions from the tailpipes of vehicles to smokestacks, but eliminates the emissions altogether.

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