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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’


Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

March 30, 2011
Nuclear Townhall
From the Editors

The President will make a major address on energy this morning at 11:20 am.  That means it must be 1973, or, 1977, or 1994, or 2001 – oh, never mind.
For the umpteenth time in memory, the President of the United States will talk to the nation about energy, saying we have to have a “plan” and that we want to “practice conservation,” “reduce oil imports” and “develop new sources of energy.”  Will nuclear play a part in this?  Well, we’ve got a new strategy for that. Wait just a minute and you’ll see.
Meanwhile, here are some of the “talking points” the White House is putting out about today’s energy address, according to the White House briefing posted this morning.
·    Expand safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production
·    Secure access to diverse and reliable sources of energy
·    Develop alternatives to oil, including biofuels and natural gas
·    Expand biofuels
·    Set historic new fuel economy standards
·    Innovate our way to a clean energy future
·    Cut energy bills through more efficient homes and buildings
·    Stay on the cutting edge through clean energy research and development
Is there anything there that Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Clinton and the two George Bush’s haven’t said already?
Now here’s the kicker. Is nuclear going to play a part in any of this?  Yes indeed, there are three references:
·    “Build an international framework for nuclear energy.”
It’s anybody’s guess what that means, but it sounds like we’re going to be outsourcing our nuclear development to France and China.
·    Generate 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035 – including renewable energy sources like wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower; nuclear power; efficient natural gas; and clean coal.
Since we already get 50 percent of our electricity from nuclear, natural gas and hydro, this isn’t all that implausible. Look for natural gas to play the leading role in the expansion.
·    Fund “Energy Innovation Hubs” that explore building efficiency, fuel from sunlight, and nuclear reactor modeling and simulation.
Got that?  While the Chinese, Russians and Koreans are building real nuclear reactors, we’re going to build computer models of reactors. It’s going to be like Facebook. In twenty years we’ll have virtual reactors that enable us to live in a virtual world.

Read more about it at


Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Nuclear Townhall
January 5, 2011

In a feature story right from the anti-nuclear playbook (“Flirting with Disaster…Every few years the defenses of the nation’s nuclear plants are tested. What’s scary is how often they fail”), Newsweek magazine reports that “eight times out of roughly 100 attempts over the past five years, … mock terror teams have successfully broken through … defenses” of U.S. nuclear plants.

Right on script, the article quotes a Union of Concerned Scientist spokesman accusing the industry of “hiding behind the 9/11 tragedy to withhold information—like which plants have failed tests and repairs that have been made—that should be available.”

Newsweek surmises that “worries are particularly acute because the nuclear-energy industry is experiencing a new era of growth” – citing positive support from President Obama for loan guarantees and Energy Secretary Chu’s recent public statement that nuclear energy was “clean energy.”
On a positive note, the feature concludes that “advanced technology has virtually eliminated the risk of accidental meltdowns, like the one at Chernobyl in 1986, adding repetitive safeguards that allow the plant to shut itself down if operators can’t.”

But Newsweek warns:  “The bigger problem is the highly radioactive waste that is left over once most of the energy-producing juice has been sucked out of it” – stuff that “will remain dangerously radioactive for about 10 millennia, until the year 12011.”

The features rebuts a pithy quote from American Nuclear Society President Andy Kadak that modern nuclear plants are like prisons opining that “prison breaks still happen from time to time”  and the “security measures that are in place result in very little transparency.”  Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko offers Newsweek a bureaucratic defense saying “we think in the end overall security is best achieved by keeping most of [our security information] protected.”  This prompts another rebuff from Newsweek, which observes that “yet as the Gulf Coast oil spill showed, an industry out of public view can get sloppy.”

Newsweek offers a new rationale not yet floated by the Obama Administration for the termination of the Yucca Mountain project, which it describes positively as “dry, desolate, not prone to natural disasters – the perfect location for a repository” saying the project was canceled “in pursuit of something less risky than concentrating millions of pounds of waste in one place.”

Not to worry, we’re told the Energy Department has a Blue Ribbon Commission “researching other ideas, such as burying it in the oceans, shooting it into space, or finding a new repository somewhere else in the world.” The Newsweek feature concludes with this oddity:  “That site’s defenses, however, would need to be foolproof,” an observation presumably not applicable to an outer-space-based repository.

Read more at Newsweek



Friday, September 10th, 2010

Environmentalist Bill McKibben has a flare for the dramatic. The author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet has organized “360,” a worldwide internet rally to keep the CO2 content of the earth’s atmosphere at 360 parts per million.

Now he has gone one better. McKibben is currently making a pilgrimage down the East Coast from Maine to Washington carrying a big of history – the solar panels that President Jimmy Carter once installed on the roof of the White House. McKibben received a write-up in the Washington Post yesterday and will try to present the panels to President Barack Obama over the weekend.

Whether the President will see solar panels as an opportunity to provide linkage to the need for climate legislation – or just another another reminder of the hapless Carter Administration – will soon be determined.

McKibben opines that failure to follow up on Carter’s initiative has meant forfeiting the solar future to China:  “I sat not long ago with Huang Ming, China’s leading solar entrepreneur, in his space-age Sun Moon Mansion in Shandong Province looking over the stats: his HiMin Solar Energy Group has put up 60 million such systems across China–he estimated that when 250 million Chinese take a shower, the hot water is coming off their roofs…"

In a biting symbol of the passed torch, he keeps one of the Carter panels in his private museum.” In an interview at SolarFest in Tinmouth, Vermont last July. McKibben acknowledged that nuclear power will have to be part of any worldwide effort to reduce carbon emissions. However, he said he didn’t like to bring this up in his public addresses. “It would split this movement in half,” he said, surveying the hordes of solar enthusiasts who camped for three days on a hillside farm. Most of the solar enthusiasts were also campaigning to close down Vermont Yankee, which provides one-third of Vermont’s electricity.


Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

By William Tucker
As President Barack Obama meets with key Senators this morning to discuss energy, the number of scenarios that could unfold in the passage of an energy bill through Congress this year keeps multiplying.

As The New York Times suggests in a lengthy article this morning, one more possibility – besides the adoption by the Senate of some form of cap-and-trade – is that Senate Democrats may pass some deliberately weak bill and then count on it being strengthened in the conference committee. Anything the Senate passes would have to be reconciled with the stronger Waxman-Markey adopted by the House. Then an up-or-down vote on the conference bill could be postponed until after the November election.

Another scenario has the Senate adopting an oil-spill bill with an energy bill attached. The main body of the legislation would involve punishing BP and improving drilling safety. Since acting against BP would be popular, Republicans would find it hard to vote against any cap-and-trade or renewable portfolio requirements that might be attached. Democrats would label them friends of the oil industry.

Beyond these strategies, the big question remains what will happen with any bill's four major provisions:  1) carbon restrictions, 2) renewable portfolio standards, 3) nuclear loan guarantees, and 4) offshore drilling regulations. If the Democrats manage to assemble one big package, as they did with health care, they might force Republicans to accept some things they don't like.

A strong nuclear title will likely be part of any package. The Kerry-Lieberman bill is very strong on nuclear, with expanded loan guarantees and a section telling the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to speed up the licensing process. Its inclusion is more than likely since- miracle of miracles – nuclear power has become something of a favorite in Congress with few anti-nuclear representatives raising their voices.

Cap-and-trade would also favor nuclear, since it would act against nuclear's main rivals, coal and natural gas. The real danger to nuclear would be a strong renewable portfolio standard -17-percent-by-2020 as in Waxman-Markey, for instance – that would exclude nuclear. This would lead to a decade of misplaced investment in wind-and-sunshine that would probably push nuclear into the background. Several Senators are urging a carbon-free standard instead of a "renewable" standard, since that would put nuclear back into the picture. In fact it is something of a mystery how proposals to generate electricity with wood instead of coal on the grounds that wood is more "renewable" ever made it into bill aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

It's high drama, with both the election and the nation's energy future hanging in the balance. After the sneak-preview offered by today's White House discussions, prime time will begin on July 12 when majority leader Harry Reid brings his oil-and-energy offering to the floor of the Senate.

Read more at the New York Times


Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Looking around the world at France, Japan, Korea and China building reactors, it’s easy for any American to experience “Renaissance envy.”  But it’s odd to realize the same feelings are materializing within this country.

After attending the annual meeting of the American Nuclear Society in San Diego last week, San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer Onell R. Soto has written a column that can only be said to express extreme Renaissance envy.

“Plants are breaking ground in the South. Big companies are talking about new designs. President Barack Obama says they can be a key tool in the fight against global warming, and some environmentalists agree,” writes Soto.

“But it’s not happening here in California. . . The state is focused on solar and wind development, and power companies say they will rely on natural gas for the bulk of the power. . .

“A 1976 California law says no nuclear plant can be built in the state until the federal government approves a way to deal with high-level nuclear waste ­ and such approval is unlikely soon.

“But it goes beyond that law, said Stephanie Donovan, a spokeswoman for San Diego Gas & Electric, which has battled with critics over projects like its Sunrise Powerlink, a 120-mile line connecting San Diego to the Imperial Valley.

“’Given the public opposition to building infrastructure of just about any kind in our service territory, I can’t imagine getting anything through environmental approvals in this region,’ she said.

Soto’s thoughtful observations point up a division we’ll be discussing in Nuclear Townhall’s “Debate of the Week” this Friday. The Renaissance is becoming a two-tiered affair, with the South and the Midwest sensibly pursuing the technology while California and the Northeast not only chase the chimera of solar energy but are actively trying to close reactors down.

Should nuclear advocates be battling these opponents on every front, trying to keep these aging reactors open?  Or should we just let Vermont, New York and California close down their nuclear plants and learn a lesson in where electricity comes from?  

Join the debate on Friday and give us your opinion.

Read more at The San Diego Union-Tribune


Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Nuclear Townhall welcomes opinion pieces from its readers, which will be published as quality, space and interest allow. Please submit all writings to

By Yucca Johnny
For most of those listening to the President's Gulf Oil Speech last week, the idea that BP would be providing $20 billion to pay claims related to their oil spill seems like a good thing.

However, there are some 120 communities in 39 states around the country that were left wondering if this is another $20 billion being teed up to be poured down a proverbial black hole.

Those are the communities in which the federal government has long promised to meet its obligation to clean up spent fuel and nuclear waste by moving the material to a central national repository.   Indeed, the government has already collected more than $30 billion including interest to do so.

Or as Jim McTague notes in a Barrons piece on the Yucca Mountain termination decision:  Obama’s Other Disaster, the President has ‘triggered a less publicized environmental mess with costs that rival BP’s deep-water oil spill.  The difference is that taxpayers –not some energy company – will foot the bill.  The legal costs could top $50 billion.   And if Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada loses his tough re-election bid come November, then to borrow a phrase from an Oval Office operative, it will be money down the toilet.”

In fact the federal government has spent over $10 billion in scientific and technical studies to verify that the Yucca Mountain repository located in Nevada is scientifically suitable to store nuclear materials.

Notwithstanding all this, the Energy Department without any scientific justification and without a "Plan B," has cancelled the Yucca Mountain repository, stranding, in all likelihood, nuclear waste in these communities for the better part of a century.  Adding insult to injury, the Department says it will continue to collect annually the roughly $800 million mandated by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, without any clear plan or need for the money.

Will the BP oil fund go the same way? The federal government is desperate to reduce the federal deficit and could very well collect and reroute this money away from its original mandate for years by stretching out claim payments. 

 Caveat Emptor!


Thursday, June 17th, 2010

By Steve Hedges

WASHINGTON — Amid the chatter about the BP oil spill, lost jobs, billion-dollar escrow funds and political fallout, The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Smith notes in a story today something that people in the nuclear industry have been talking about ever since the first hint of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and underwater gushers:
Why doesn’t the oil business have something like the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations – the industry oversight arm that was established after the 1979 Three Mile Island incident?

It’s a good question, especially given the long-lasting effects of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. Government regulations on tankers and oil operations were revamped after Valdez. But the oil industry itself, as the fallout from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico has shown, hasn’t done enough to police its own work, especially when it comes to the deep-water technology involved in offshore drilling.
The lackadaisical testing of the blow-out preventers that are designed to stop deep sea gushers is just the start. Until now, most environmentalists might have guessed that the petroleum industry had better internal oversight than America’s nuclear power grid.
They’d be wrong.

As the Journal story notes:

“William K. Reilly, a Republican and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the first President Bush, said an organization modeled on ‘Inpo’—the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations—wouldn't be a substitute for stronger federal oversight but could "create the safety culture that's needed" in offshore drilling.
“Atlanta-based Inpo was created in 1979 following the nuclear accident at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania. Today its inspection teams conduct regular evaluations of nuclear plants and assess training programs. It is credited with improving plant safety and performance. A nonprofit corporation, it is funded by $100 million a year in industry fees.”

The key elements of INPO are that it is industry driven, funded and managed. That, and the fact that it works, as the Journal story notes. People have lost their jobs after poor INPO inspections.

The nuclear industry realized quickly after Three Mile Island that the high stakes of an accident or even a minor incident: the risk of unnecessary and even permanent shutdown, increased and highly-politicized government scrutiny, higher operating and recovery costs and long-lasting damage to community trust.
BP is living that nightmare scenario right now. But the oil industry appears content to have let BP flop around the oily deck of its own disaster. While environmentalist and oil industry opponents are talking about stronger offshore drilling regulations or even halting offshore work for good, few in the business are suggesting something like INPO, an “in-house,” self-regulatory process will make things safer for all oil producers.

As in other industries where safety, technology and regulation meet – Aviation comes quickly to mind – reasonable, industry-wide precautions taken by solid operators can prevent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill.

Read more at the WSJ:

Bromwich named to head oil regulator

Obama: BP will pay for the damage it has done

Obama's political oil fund


Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

To those who thought the Obama Administration was making progress in incorporating nuclear power into its energy plans, the Presidents speech last night came as a sobering wake-up call.
Once again, as in his Inaugural Address, the President was singing the virtues of wind and solar energy with nary a mention of nuclear. Twice he enumerated what he considers the clean energy economy and nuclear was not part of it.
Of course the Presidents mention of anything to do with generating electricity was controversial because, as commentators are already pointing out, putting electrons onto the grid has nothing to do with putting gasoline in your tank unless we are to start migrating to a fleet of electric cars, which is still far in the future. Strangely, the President didn‚t even mention biofuels, which however dubious their contribution is still the number-one renewable strategy for replacing oil.  In the Inaugural, it was "energy from wind, sun and soil."  Last night biofuels didn't even make the cut.
Fortunately, none of this will make much difference in policy. The $54 billion in loan guarantees are still in effect, site clearance at the Vogtle plant in Georgia continues and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is starting to feel the heat about getting some licenses out the door. The Kerry-Lieberman Energy Bill, which will presumably be the focus of any action in the Senate, contains a very powerful nuclear title.
Still, as the President continues to speak to the American people about all the difficulties we face in providing ourselves with enough energy, it would be nice to hear him utter the word "nuclear" once in awhile.

Read the whole speech at Reuters


Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Syria allowed inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA) to inspect its Damascus research reactor but it still barring them from its desert facility bombed in 2007 by the Israelis.

On a June 2008 visit to the Dair Alzour desert site IAEA inspectors discovered traces of uranium, indicating that a reactor may have been in operation. The same uranium traces were found at the Damascus site, suggesting there had been traffic back and forth between the two. The desert reactor is believed to be of a design supplied by North Korea, which used a Combustion Engineering design published during the Atoms for Peace Era of the 1950s to build its own plutonium-producing reactor. The Syrians just recently allowed IAEA officials to re-inspect the Damascus site but are keeping the desert site off-limits.

Meanwhile, President Obama invited 40 nations to attend a summit on the control of underground nuclear material at the White House next week. Although not specified, the effort seems mostly aimed at Iran and its nuclear program. Conservatives have criticized Obama’s effort because it seems to vow that we will not make strikes at nations that are developing nuclear weapons and liberal have criticized it because it does not go far enough in renouncing any first-strike action against North Korea or Iran.

Read about it at Business News

Then come back to Nuclear Townhall and let us know what you think

William Tucker