Category Archives: Nuclear

Nuclear Puzzle

A guy named Gregory Jaczko is about to get more exposure to the media then he has ever wanted. He was appointed by President Obama in 2009 to be the Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and will be testifying before Congress this coming week on a report that came out, from the NRC, that concluded “Mr. Jaczko failed to fully inform the other four members that he was issuing budget guidance that would essentially halt the commission’s work on the project, which was to decide whether the Energy Department should be allowed to build and operate the dump.”

The project they are talking about is Yucca Mountain, Nevada, which is about 90 miles away from Las Vegas. According to the article, Jaczko used to work for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has always been fighting to keep Yucca Mountain from becoming a permanent site for nuclear waste. During the 2008 election, Obama, while being in favor of nuclear energy, said many times Yucca Mountain will not become a place for nuclear storage. More information has come out since then making it clear Obama and Reid are close. It was Reid who convinced Obama to run for President, and when the Republican National Committee put millions into “Daschelzing” Reid last year, Obama held events and fundraisers in Nevada.

Policy wise though, it made no sense for Obama to be in favor of using nuclear energy but not store it at Yucca. Time and time again the NRC has said Yucca Mountain was the best place to store nuclear energy and was close to it in President (W’s) Bush’s first term. Bush signed the law to turn the area into a storage facility, only for it to be vetoed by the Governor, and then overturned by Congress.

As far as Jaczko is concerned, the report said he did not break any laws, but he obviously didn’t make any friends. Obama put him on the commission to look at other sites in the country that can be built for storage. It’s an example of a political appointment, and someone coming in with an agenda. It’s the nature of the game. But while other sites around the country are closer to residential areas, Yucca is closest to volcanic lava on federal land. Using nuclear energy is clean, creates jobs, is more efficient, and costs less than other forms of energy. According to World Nuclear the price of generating nuclear fuel is cheaper then coal and gas, making it cheaper for consumers in the long run. Readers know I want to visit Las Vegas again, but people don’t like to see wind turbines in their back yard, and solar power can’t be used everywhere or at any time.

I write a lot about how politics get in the way of good policies being put together, this is an example of that. At the same time, politics is also a necessary evil. If it wasn’t for Harry Reid, Obama may not have run for President, and of course the alternatives to a democracy/a republic don’t look to good. All the pundits were saying nuclear energy would take a step back after the earthquake in Japan, but eventually there’s going to be more nuclear plants in this country, it just makes too much sense. Designs for nuclear plants have improved since the one at Fukushima was built, and obviously we don’t have to build them on a fault line. There’s a smart way to do it, and eventually enough politicians will solve the puzzle to get it done.

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Filed under Clean Energy, Congress, Environment, global warming, Harry Reid, Nuclear, Politics, President Obama, Reid

Obama Should Go Nuclear

This whole talk of compromise is bogus. President Obama was able to pass the tax cuts, don’t ask don’t tell, and START, because the public was on his side. Polling consistently showed the American people were in favor of these two issues, and Republicans didn’t want to look like they were not representing the people before they official gained power. But it will be a lot tougher the next two years and it will be important for Obama to pick specific issues that he can claim victory on.

Controlling the White House gives Democrats the ability to set the agenda and control the conversation. That means it is even more important to pick issues that they know they can win political points with since there will be so few of them coming up. By Obama saying he received a shellacking in this election cycle, he down played any new victories that may occur in the future, that way when he does get his initiatives passed through Congress, it is a bigger victory.

If the Republicans goal is to make Obama a one term president, there is no reason to give them an inch of breathing space. The energy legislation that passed the House this past term isn’t going anywhere. While the bill received bipartisan support, it was still a close vote and very contentious. But there are a lot of elements in it that both sides can vote for. One of them is the expansion of nuclear energy.

Obama has consistently said he is in favor of creating more nuclear sites in the United States, and many Republicans have had this on their agenda. The list includes John McCain, Mitch McConnell, and soon to be the Chairwomen of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Lisa Murkowski. There will be plenty of quotes that can be used to contradict what these Senators will be saying if Obama decides to push this issue. But it is one that he needs to use the bully pulpit in order to get what he wants.

The microphone is going to be set on high for this one too. There are a lot of Not In My Back Yard issues when it comes to nuclear power. People either think of Chernobyl or Three Mile Island and do not want an instance such as that to effect their communities. Both of these accidents were caused by human error, unlike the BP oil spill which was caused by human error. That’s why the Department of Justice is suing BP believing the disaster could have been avoided. More regulation will be needed for the new nuclear plants, but it is hard to make an argument that current plants and refineries don’t need it either.

One of the factors involved with using nuclear technology is where to store the waste that comes from using the material. But while there are currently 104 nuclear power plants operating in the United States, the amount of material that would have to be stored would cover seven yards on a football field. The technology for storing this material has been improved insurmountable since the last two nuclear accidents.

While building new nuclear plants are expensive, there is still plenty of money to be made from building them, particularly with the right incentives that the federal government can provide. In the meantime, the money that is being spent will create jobs. That’s why other countries like England are planning to build more of them. And I haven’t gotten into the environmental benefits of using more nuclear power.

One of the reasons Obama had such a hard time with the media is because he was not specific enough in what he wanted. The public option was the prime example. The official position was “I’m in favor of a public option, but it does not have to be in the final bill for the bill to be effective.” While policy junkies or people who work in the health sector may have understood what he was saying, it was confusing. And it didn’t allow him to own the issue and take credit for the pieces of legislation that will benefit people.

The White House needs to keep it short and understandable. Not everyone is a physicist and kept up on the news coming out of the nuclear sector. Next year Obama is going to have to stop trying to teach, and needs to preach instead.

 

 

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Filed under Carbon dioxide, Energy, Environment, global warming, Jobs, Nuclear, Obama, Poitics

We Need Energy

If you want evidence that only funny characters and what they say dominate the news media, try figuring out the latest debate on taxes. The Senate “worked” this weekend on the nations taxes. But since the United States Senate requires hours of debate before a vote can actually take place, it makes it easy to waste a lot of time. So unless you are a C-SPAN2 junky (like me) you missed hours upon hours of our elected officials talking about how they were going to vote.

[Quick side note: Notice how I didn’t say debate to describe what the Senate was doing this weekend. The Senate doesn’t debate anymore. If you want to read a great debate, look up Second Reply to Hayne, given by Daniel Webster.]

But don’t worry, Senator’s don’t get paid overtime. After all that talk the only agenda that was accomplished was playing politics. Only two votes were taken and both sides knew they were going to fail. Democrats said they wanted to show Republicans only support the rich, and Republican’s refused to raise taxes even though they claim to want to tackle the deficit. Now it looks like all the Bush taxes will be extended. The good news is that unemployment benefits will also. The bad news is that even if Democrats somehow manage to raise some taxes, Wall Street is already trying to figure out how to not pay them.

What both sides forget though is that Americans aren’t looking for a show, they’re looking for things to get done. While building Noah’s Arc in Kentucky may seem funny, it is a policy that will create jobs and help the economy. It shows leadership and strength, which is exactly what people are looking for.

One of President Obama’s problems the past two years is that he let Republican’s control the debate on all the issues. Whether it was health care or Wall Street Reform, the Obama never used the bully pulpit to the extent other Presidents like FDR or Reagan did. Even though both President’s lost seats during their midterm elections, their base was ready to fight for them when they were up for reelection, and they won big.

The State of the Union speech is coming up soon. It will be a moment where the president can set the agenda and tone for the next two years he is in office. The first issue he should talk about is energy. This is an area where Republican’s and Democrats can make themselves happy. Obama already came out in favor of nuclear energy, which Republican’s have been pushing for years. Wind and solar energy have are already a growing industry. With the right incentives, creating new energy industries can create thousands of jobs that can’t be shipped off. The best part is that the technology for these new industries is being developed in America, and that means more exports which (according to standard models) will help America’s economy grow.

President Obama not only needs to create more energy, he also needs to show more energy. Letting the other side control the modern hyperbole of a debate, only takes away the victories he has already accomplished. We all know what a great communicator he can be, next year, it’s time to step up and speak loud.

 

 

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Filed under Democrats, Energy, Nuclear, President Obama, Republicans, Solar, Speech, State of the Union, Wind