that will result in a new generation of nuclear power plants.
Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
October 5, 2009
The new Democratic climate change bill , introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer and John Kerry, contains more advantages for nuclear power than even the legislation which passed in the House of Representatives last June. Included are waste management, financing and loan guarantee arrangements, regulatory risk insurance, as well as R&D and training programs. Joseph Lieberman is understood to be preparing the fine print for the bill which is presently "short on details". The bill however does describe a "new era for the nuclear industry." Other vital findings include:
The push for a new generation of nuclear power plants finds bi-partisan support, Democrat Barbara Boxer has said that a higher cost for carbon–which would make coal-fired plants less attractive and nuclear plants more attractive–would do the trick [in making nuclear power competitive], while Republican Lamar Alexander has said "let's start building a hundred nuclear power plants." Ever one to make extreme positions seem moderate, John McCain says the Democrats' bill falls far short, and he wants more incentives for building new nuclear plants, beyond aid the industry already gets and the advantages for nuclear under a cap and trade plan.
(6) even if every nuclear plant is granted a 20-year extension, all currently operating nuclear plants will be retired by 2055;
(7) long lead times for nuclear power plant construction indicate that action to stimulate the nuclear power industry should not be delayed;
(8) the high upfront capital costs of nuclear plant construction remain a substantial obstacle, despite theoretical potential for significant cost reduction;
Unlike their political leaders the public is increasingly skeptical about the need for "climate" legislation. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported that 30 percent of the public considered global warming to be one of the top priorities for governmental action, placing it 19th out of the 19 options surveyed in the January 2009 survey. Barack Obama's top energy adviser, Carol Browner does not see a high likelihood of legislation being passed this year. Undeterred by popular will the EPA said on September 30, that it will require newly built or modified industrial facilities that produce more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year to use “best available [carbon] control technologies and energy efficiency measures.” Thus directly mandating the costlier nuclear energy whether the Congress passes a climate change bill or not. An increased cost to ultimately be borne by rate payers. The expense of nuclear energy could be viewed as another military related financial drain on America since a vibrant civilian nuclear industry is vital for the ongoing development of new nuclear weapons.
Requirements for energy sources that are actually renewable will amount to little more than shallow symbolism as their costs will remain higher yet than that of nuclear. Under the House bill wind and solar will see some mandated growth but still make up a tiny fraction of US energy generation. The lack of interest in renewable energy is made clear by the recent slashing of the already minuscule funding for wave and tidal energy research.
Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry lobby, justifies the claim on public largess solely on the imperative of reducing Co2, the weaker "energy independence" rationale being absent from his response to the bill:
"The U.S. nuclear energy industry supports the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 in a way that minimizes negative impact on the economy and consumers of electricity. We appreciate the fact that Senators Kerry and Boxer recognize that nuclear energy is a critical component of any strategy to reduce carbon emissions. The nuclear energy industry appreciates their efforts, along with those of Senator Carper, to articulate the strategic value of nuclear energy in this global challenge."As with other major pieces of legislation under consideration by the current Congress, the financial industry is a central actor, venture capitalists “are ready to pour multibillions of dollars into clean energy” if Congress passes “some kind of bill that talks about energy independence and climate change,” Boxer said.