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Posts Tagged ‘Obama Administration’


Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Nuclear Townhall
January 12, 2011

Calling the Obama Administration’s energy planners “The Green Dream Team,” Gary Jason, an instructor at Cal State Fullerton, has charged that “American is under an environmental spell” while China proceeds apace with nuclear technology.
“We continue to stall on nuclear power, keep a moratorium on deepwater oil production, lock up ever-increasing amounts of land and coastal shelf from energy use, put ever-multiplying regulations in the way of using our vast coal and shale-oil reserves, and haven’t built a hydroelectric or nuclear facility in years,” writes Jason in the Orange County Register. “The Obama administration, aka the Green Dream Team, has fully bought the environmentalist line that renewable energy sources (especially wind and solar power) will provide the ideal power from now on, and is preparing to unleash the EPA to wage jihad on fossil-fuel energy.”
Jason relies strongly on the report, "The Real Story behind China’s Energy Policy and What America Can Learn from It,” put out last month by the Republican minority on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The report makes the important point that China includes nuclear, hydroelectric, clean coal in their plans for carbon-free energy.  

“There is a myth – accepted by this administration – that unless we cripple our fossil fuel industries by cap-and-tax and embrace `clean energy’ (which is never taken by environmentalists to include nuclear power), we will lose the `green energy race’ with China, which is supposed to be rapidly adopting solar and wind power,” writes Jason. “But, as the Senate report correctly comments, `The “clean energy race” between the U.S. and China – and the lament that America is losing – is an idea concocted by activists to promote cap-and-trade, renewable energy mandates, and greater government control of the economy.’"
It is strange to read Thomas Friedman fulminating on how China is going to beat the pants off us on windmills and solar collectors when most of those devices are being sold abroad to gullible Western governments. Meanwhile, the Chinese plan on adding 100 GW of nuclear in the next 20 years, three times as much as the rest of the world combined. Sometimes it takes an untenured instructor at a state college to point these things out.
Jason is also a contributing editor at

Read more at the Orange County Register



Monday, November 8th, 2010

With Congress re-convening for the lame duck session this week, among the issues likely to hit the floor is likely to be the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of carbon emissions;  It’s likely to be a battle royal that could continue into the new Congress with swing votes and a potential Presidential veto in the balance.
Political pundits are now saying that supporters of Congressional action to delay or overturn the regulations may be able to muster the 60 votes needed to get past a filibuster in the Senate. But that still leaves anti-climate-regulations supporters six votes short of the 66 that would be needed to overcome a Presidential veto.
Whatever the votes, carbon regulations are likely to be a hot-button issue. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is revved up to take on the issue and the effects won’t be long in coming, with the impact hard to ignore.
Because carbon dioxide has now been declared a “pollutant,” the EPA will be operating under the old 1970s format where it solicits state “implementation plans” that must meet EPA approval. These plans always weight very heavily on new sources, which must receive “new source permits” in order to proceed. Older sources are given their marching orders to clean up but these are often delayed with extensions and court challenges. Meanwhile, new sources are required to use the “best available technology,” which makes them extraordinarily expensive. The typical pattern is that older plants keep chugging away while newer construction is delayed. This is one reason why almost half the nation’s coal plants are now more than 50 years old and still operating without pollution control equipment.
Comprehensive global climate legislation was supposed to supersede this aged paradigm, putting both old and new plants on an equal footing and allowing plant owners to arrive at the best solution themselves. This worked fabulously well with the sulfur emissions program of the 1990s. But the much more ambitious program to reduce carbon emissions, combined with the failure of cap-and-trade in the Senate, has led to the current dynamic.
For states struggling out of a recession, the prospect of being told that all new major construction projects must meet the highest standards of carbon emissions or not be built at all is likely to set howls of protest. Still, the Obama Administration seems prepared to dig in its heels. And 66 votes in the Senate are going to be hard to find on a stand-alone basis unless the measure is attached to a continuing resolution or omnibus appropriations, which will be less politically appetizing to veto. Politico does a nice job of checking off the scorecard in this lengthy analysis.

Read more at Politico



Friday, October 22nd, 2010

When the smoke clears after the November mid-term elections, probably the most divisive battle between the entrenched Obama Administration and the party crashing Tea Partiers will be fought over the EPA’s plans to regulate carbon emissions in January. Ironically, the right is now being led by liberal Democrat Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia, who is urging coal miners in his state to “get mad” over EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s unilateral effort to enforce a national climate plan. 

A forerunner of this pending drama could be seen this week as the Obama Administration once again postponed its effort to tighten Bush Administration standards on ozone in an obvious attempt to avoid election blowback. Even as the administration shuffles its feet, Republicans are charging hard, with Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, calling the ozone review part of the President’s "anti-industrial policy" and top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee listing it as one of the costliest new regulations being issued under the Clean Air Act

The battle over ozone is nothing compared to what carbon regulations are going to inspire. Implementation plans are usually drawn up by the states but the EPA has already pre-empted this by saying it will substitute its own plans in those states that have not come up with anything yet. Texas is suing, saying that the law gives them three years to comply.

If EPA prevails, any new building projects will require extensive review to make sure they are not adding to a state’s “carbon footprint.”  Whole state economies may be at stake. Meanwhile, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is leading a bi-partisan effort in the Senate to postpone the EPA effort. But Murkowski is locked in a bitter write-in campaign election after being defeated as too moderate by a Tea Party rival in the Republican primary. 

As one nuclear energy observer opined:  "Just think, all this could be avoided with nuclear energy, which promises clean air, adequate power and economic prosperity all at once. Instead we’ll have to wait to see the carbon debate blow up after the election."

Read more about it at the New York Times


Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Probably nothing is more stark in the world today than the way the United States is falling behind the rest of the world in industrial technology – particularly nuclear power.
Yet when the Obama Administration tries to get us back in the game, its efforts draws immediate fire from the non-proliferation crowd in Washington.
That’s the gist of today’s front-page story in The Wall Street Journal. The Obama Administration is trying to strike a deal with Vietnam that would allow it to enrich its own uranium. That would allow U.S, companies to get a small piece of the deal that Hanoi already struck with Russia last February to build a 2,000-MW reactor. Yet according to the Journal, “critics on Capitol Hill say would undercut the more stringent demands the U.S. has been making of its partners in the Middle East.”
If nothing else, this only shows how out of touch things are on Capitol Hill. The deal the non-proliferationists point to is the Obama Administration’s demand that the United Arab Emirates foreswear enrichment in its plans to build four new reactors in the Persian Gulf. But shortly after, both Korea and France stepped in and struck deals that did not ban enrichment. Korea got the $20 billion contract to build the reactors. Non-proliferationists also point to the demands the U.S. is currently making that Jordan not enrich its own uranium – without mentioning that this policy has strained relations between the two countries worse than any time in the past twenty years.
People who think we can dictate the use of nuclear technology around the world are having a hard time accepting that the U.S. has long forfeited its lead in the technology. After all, how many reactors have we built in the last 20 years?  How many have France, Russia, Japan, Korea and China?


Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

The Obama Administration’s 18-month effort to pass significant climate and energy legislation effectively ended yesterday as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made it official that he will not introduce a truncated energy bill for a vote before the scheduled Senate August recess.

The anticipated bill had limited climate-related  aspects.  Its main concern was the BP oil spill — removing liability caps and tightening permitting for offshore drilling. The effect, according to Senators from the Gulf states, would be to turn the Administration’s temporary moratorium on drilling in the Gulf into a permanent state of affairs. Opposition from Republicans and Gulf State Senators convinced Reid he could not get the 60 votes needed to advance the bill.

Representatives of the offshore oil industry breathed a sigh of relief but said that the six-month moratorium on drilling imposed by the Obama Administration is already having a devastating impact. "This is a very competitive international market," said Jack Victory, a spokesman for Transocean, the Swiss company whose rig blew up at Deepwater Horizon. "These rigs are in demand all over the world.  Several have already left the Gulf for Egypt, Brazil and West Africa.  It’ll be a long time before they come back."

Although the drilling slowdown will not have any immediate impact, it could start to show up in diminishing production within a few years.  One-third of domestic oil production now comes from the Gulf and domestic production only provides one-third of the U.S.’s oil consumption.

Nuclear energy sources generally conclude that the demise of an energy bill with carbon pricing put more more pressure on a policy lift from federal loan guarantees, which also seem to be grinding to a halt as well. This week both NRG and Constellation Energy slashed plans for spending on new projects in anticipation that the Department of Energy would not be making any more awards in the near future.


Friday, July 9th, 2010

Next week, if all goes as anticipated, Senate Majority Lead Harry Reid (D-NV) will take the first steps towards bringing an energy bill to the Senate floor with the hope that he can hammer something through before the August recess.

This could be a turning point for the Nuclear Renaissance. There are several possible outcomes that could be disadvantageous for nuclear. The worst would be if Congress decides to abandon a carbon-based approach altogether and settle for a “compromise” of a huge “renewable portfolio standard.”  Such a mandate would lead to much misallocated investment while giving no advantage to nuclear’s zero-carbon electricity.

There are several pieces of legislation already on the menu that could form the basis of the Majority Leader’s effort:

¤  Kerry-Lieberman

The bill has a very strong nuclear title, including expanded loan guarantees and a charge to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to speed its licensing. It contains no renewable portfolio but is premised on a cap-and-trade system that applies first to utilities and later to industry.

¤ Senate Energy

Largely crafted by New Mexico Democrat Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, more than a year ago, the bill is “energy only,” mostly a package of incentives for wind, solar and electric cars. It was voted out of Bingaman’s Energy Committee but never made it to the floor. Getting Republican support might mean adding Kerry-Lieberman’s nuclear title plus a concession to swing Republicans.

¤ “Utilities Only”

A tripartite commission has advanced the American Power Act, which would apply cap-and-trade only to utilities.  It would avoid imposing cap-and-trade on the entire economy and concentrate most of its effects on old coal plants. This probably minimizes impacts on the price of electricity, since old coal plants are not the marginal provider. However, pivotal Republicans such as Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Indiana Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana are rejecting any form of cap-and-trade.

¤ Lugar Bill

Senator Lugar has introduced his own bill, the Practical Energy and Climate Plan Act, which is “more carrots than sticks.”  The plan would add $36 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors and add more money for energy conservation.  Oil drilling and biofuels would also get a boost, but there is no provision for taxing or capping carbon.  The stick, says Lugar, would be the threat of EPA regulation of carbon emissions.  The bill has won the support of Republican Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, which is significant in the Graham was a co-author of Kerry-Lieberman before withdrawing his support just as the bill was introduced.

¤ Waxman-Markey

One widely rumored option is that Democrats could adopt some mild form of energy legislation and count on having cap-and-trade revived in the Senate-House Conference Committee. Final passage could be postponed until after the November election. Cap-and-trade could not muster 60 votes in the Senate but might survive through the same parliamentary maneuver that led to the passage of health care reform. If the Democrats lose badly in November, however, political pressures against it would be very strong.

¤ EPA Regulations

Lurking in the background is the possibility that if nothing passes the Senate, the Obama Administration may fall back on having the Environmental Protection Agency impose a command-and-control carbon regime on the entire economy. Nobody seems to want this but both sides could blame each other if it becomes the end point. Many supporters of nuclear are talking about substituting a “carbon-free standard” for the “renewable standard” so that nuclear could be included. It makes sense and support for nuclear is rising, but it may be a little late in the game for such a change.

Threading the needle with something that secures nuclear’s benefits while not creating runaway incentives for other forms of energy is going to be extremely difficult. What’s your proposal for a winning strategy?


Friday, July 2nd, 2010

By William Tucker
This week’s rapid-fire developments have once again focused the discussion back on that perennial issue – and anti-nuclear trump card – “What do you do with the waste?” Now we’re back to square one. The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has rejected Secretary of Energy Steven Chu’s proposed Yucca Mountain license withdrawal and posed the question that a lot of people thought should be asked in the first place: “Where’s the scientific basis for closing the Yucca Mountain repository?”

Obviously, the withdrawal was just a political decision. But the reversal of the Obama Administration’s efforts, which include kicking the can down the road via a Blue Ribbon Commission, may only lead us back into a labyrinth. Some entity is certain to challenge any outcome in court (cases are already filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals). That will lead to a long judiciary proceeding that will take years to resolve, maybe even leading up to the Supreme Court. Whatever the outcome, it is not likely to be based on the science.

Meanwhile, to the extent that you link new or current nuclear plants with resolution of the back-end, the future of nuclear hangs twisting in the wind. So maybe it’s time to pose another question, “Why are we having this discussion in the first place?”

How did we ever get to the point of digging a $90 billion hole in the ground to bury valuable material when other countries are embracing recycling technologies that greatly reduce the footprint of a repository? Why we got into the argument in historical terms is well known.

In 1972, a New Yorker writer named John McPhee living in Princeton met an eccentric former Defense Department bomb designer named Ted Taylor who also lived in Princeton. After designing the Davy Crockett and other battlefield weapons, Taylor had become somewhat conscious-stricken and decided if he could design a bomb in his garage anyone else could as well. Taylor convinced McPhee that stealing plutonium out of an American reprocessing plant would be easy and that by the 1990s “hundreds of explosions” of homemade nuclear weapons and terrorist bombs would going off in American cities. McPhee packaged all these fears in The Curve of Binding Energy (which still sells well on Amazon) and the rest is history. America’s abandonment of recycling under President Carter’s Administration is the reason for Yucca Mountain.

So is the project worth pursuing? Or, contrarily, is it worth following Secretary Chu through the “not-invented-here” exercise looking for some way to recycle that doesn’t simply duplicate the French?  Or, once again, does at-reactor dry cask storage offer such a clear and obvious bridge — as also suggested by Secretary Chu –that we don’t have to think about this for another 50 years? What’s your opinion?


Monday, June 21st, 2010

”Never let a crisis go to waste” seems to be the motto of the Obama Administration and the nuclear industry and blogosphere are responding as well.

If nothing else, the Gulf oil spill has brought into focus the enormously successful safety record of the nuclear industry. If the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is the oil and gas industry’s Three Mile Island, then the message from the nuclear industry is, “We’ve been through that a long time ago.  Follow our lead.”  Commentators and Senators are pointing to INPO, the Price Anderson Act and other aspects of the nuclear industry as the paradigm for the way offshore oil should be organizing itself.

Now Charles Barton, one of the best of the bloggers, has taken things a step further and called for a White Paper on the safety aspects for a “Mass Global Deployment of Nuclear Power.”  Barton begins by referencing a 2005 study, “Comparative Assessment of Natural Gas Accident Risks, by the Paul Sherrer Institute, which found that among 100,000 casualties in the energy sector, 2000 came from natural gas while only 31 were the result of nuclear. (The vast majority came from coal and oil.)  Even those 31 casualties were hypothetical, resulting from assuming the linear no threshold hypothesis for radiation exposure. The rate of verifiable fatalities for nuclear was zero.

Barton goes on to explore various designs for “Ultimate Safe Reactors” and “Absolute and Ultimate Safe Reactors,” based on molten-salt technology. All this will be subject to debate and there will be other suggestions as well. But as a case for beginning to show the world how ultimately safe and productive nuclear can be, it’s a good start.



Thursday, April 8th, 2010

In what is being billed as a promising start to next Monday’s Non-Proliferation Summit in Washington, Chile has completed delivery of a batch of highly enriched uranium to the U.S.

“We are happy to see it go,” Fernando Lopez, head of the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission was quoted as saying. The 40 pounds of material had been created over several decades at two research reactors near Santiago. It took six tons of lead lining to shield the material from transport.

The transfer was almost halted when an earthquake hit Chile in February. The research reactors are still without power and port facilities at Santiago were shut down. But another port was found and the material reached Savannah this week. From there it will be transferred to Oak Ridge for blending down to reactor grade.

The Obama Administration says there are dozens of similar sites around the globe where potential bomb material is sitting relatively unguarded. Next week’s summit will convene 47 nations who are signers of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to deal with the problem.

Read it at Global Security Newswire

Then come back to Nuclear Townhall and share your thoughts

William Tucker