Yesterday during mark up on the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, Rep Cliff Stearns of Florida offered an amendment that would have included power produced in nuclear power plants in the computation as an approved source of emission free electricity to meet a proposed renewable energy standard. The committee rejected the amendment. According to Reuters, Henry Waxman argued against the amendment with the following logic:
Waxman argued that the bill was not discriminating against nuclear power, but that nuclear was not renewable energy because it requires uranium, a limited resource. Also, he said the renewable standard was aimed at promoting new power sources and technology.
This statement begs two questions:
- Would it help if the nuclear plant was modified to consume recycled uranium or thorium based fuels?
- Are existing sources of renewable energy going to count, since the bill is aimed at promoting new power sources and technology?
It is becoming increasing difficult for lawmakers who are religiously opposed to nuclear power to defend their position in debate. Americans have recent and pressing reasons to be wary of legislation that disadvantages nuclear fission as a means of increasing availability of reliable power that might displace the need to burn coal, gas or oil. Not only is it increasingly obvious that fission is clean with regard to atmospheric pollutants, but it is also more evident that placing unfair disadvantages on any fossil fuel alternative can contribute to rapidly rising prices if demand recovers.
Constituents are making their support for nuclear alternatives clear when they talk to their representatives. The idea that support for nuclear power is a “third rail” that must be avoided is a 1990s construct that does not work any more. Senator Alexander, for example, is definitely on board.
A bipartisan movement to include nuclear power as an alternative that works is growing stronger and must be nurtured with constituent support and with logical arguments that disturb the dogmatic disbelievers like Markey and Waxman who want to disguise their true feelings. If you want some proof supporting that statement, I highly recommend that you invest some time and watch Secretary Chu defend the Department of Energy budget in front of the United States Senate Budget Committee.
At least 60% of the questioners, from both sides of the aisle, pressed Secretary Chu about the budget choices that seem to place nuclear power at the bottom of the alternatives list even though it has the demonstrated history of successfully displacing fossil fuels and lowering overall energy costs through increasing supplies. Americans “get it” with regard to the need to reduce emissions, but they can recognize the difference between honest action to address the issue in a cost effective manner and a political ploy to give favors to selected industrial partners like those who produce wind turbines, solar panels, smart grid components, financial instruments for the “trade” part of cap and trade or, quite specifically, already own a large enough fleet of nuclear power plants that they will be given more than enough emission credits to cover their needs.
Any “climate change” legislation that contorts itself to summarily exclude nuclear fission as an alternative should be attacked for what it is – a dishonest bill with long term negative consequences for American prosperity and environmental stewardship.
Update: The Wall Street Journal has inspired a well reasoned discussion on the same topic Is Nuclear Power Renewable Energy?. Wonder where they got the idea?