Obama Sticks With Nuclear
Even as Japan grapples with leaking nuclear reactors and the sentimentin the US and the world turns against nuclear, President Obama issticking with it as a key piece of energy policy.
Senior administration officials say President Obama remains committed to nuclear energy and that U.S. nuclear plants are built to withstandstrong storms and earthquakes.
Last year, his administration approved $8.3 billion in Deptof Energy loan guarantees for two new plants in Georgia – the first tobe approved since Three Mile Island in 1979.
The 2012 budget plan appropriates an additional $36 billion in loan guarantees to support construction of new reactors.
Sentiment is shifting against nuclear around the world because ofthe fall-out in Japan and plans for dozens of reactors will likely bedropped.
The headline in Germany’s major paper, Der Spiegel, said"The end of the atomic age," as 40,000 protesters called for an end tonuclear power. Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the country ontelevision Sunday night to reaffirm Germany’s commitment to phase outnuclear. The next day she announced a 3-month suspension on a planto extend the life of the country’s nuclear plants for 17 years.
Switzerland suspended the approval process for three nuclear plants to take time to review standards.
China, which has 50 reactors in the planning stages, says it will not do a U-turn on nuclear, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
In the U.S., Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), the top Democrat on the HouseNatural Resources Committee and a senior Democratic member of the HouseEnergy and Commerce Committee, warned a nuclear accident similar to that in Japan could easily happen in the US.
He proposes a moratorium on siting new nuclear reactors in seismicallyactive areas (like two plants in California which are on the San Andreas fault) until a few review is conducted for safety.
He wants reviews of seismic and tsunami reactor design resiliency,emergency response and evacuation plans; requirements that reactors inseismically active zones must be retrofitted with stronger containmentand more resilient safety systems; and requirements for emergencyresponse and evacuation procedures in the event of a nuclear disaster.
The already high costs to build nuclear plants will risesignificantly if these safety measures are incorporated to buttressplants against earthquakes and other natural disasters.
And who would insure a nuclear power plant? Every nuclear plant that’sbeen built – 100 in the US – has been government guaranteed becauseinvestors won’t touch them.
As nuclear plant costs rise, renewable energies become much more economically attractive.
It’s a fact that energy efficiency combined with renewable energysources such as solar and wind are much faster to build, much cheaper,and certainly much safer than nuclear.
Shares of publicly traded solar and wind firms are rising.Germany-based SolarWorld, for example, is up 17% and Vestas, worldleader in wind turbine manufacturing, is up over 7%.
The recent nuclear crisis in Japan may lower prospects for a comprehensive energy bill in 2011, says Ardour Capital. The best legislative outcome for renewables in2011 would be if the White House embraces a Clean Electricity Standard(CES) that mandates increased use of renewables, natural gas, andnuclear. It’s the only chance to attract sufficient Republican votes.
The situation is similar to 2010 when a national Renewable PortfolioStandard (RPS) was derailed by the Gulf oil spill because the billincluded offshore drilling incentives to secure Republican votes.
But problems with nuclear are strongly positive for renewables, even ifthe US ends up in a stalemate on energy policy. Solar, for example, isforecast to grow 100% this year, even without an energy bill. The growth is based on lower system costs, 36 state RPSs, and federal taxincentives.
And the long-term outlook for US renewables would be improved if growthin nuclear is capped. Other countries will also expand the use ofrenewables in response to the current nuclear crisis.
Read our articles on the high costs and other problems associated with nuclear plants:
Solar Power Now Cheaper Than Nuclear in North Carolina
Getting it Straight on Nukes:
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