- John Podesta eats crow: ‘I apologize to Speaker Boehner’
- U.S., China race to finish line on ‘invisibility cloak’
- Obama ‘cavalier’ in hiding foreign aid order, judge rules
- Prince Charles: Muslims are driving Christians from Mideast through persecution
- Gitmo’s first commander: Close the prison down
- Google’s newest photography find: Just wink and shoot
- Detroit’s Heidelberg art project hit by 8 fires in 8 months
- Pa. police pull people over for random DNA tests for feds
- NASA pushing hard to get back into space game
- Harvard student to face federal charges for bomb hoax
Nuclear demand on hold
Hill, president support power source, but economy lags
With political support now on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, nuclear energy’s long-awaited American “renaissance” is lacking one positive factor: the economy.
“The business environment is the principal driver,” said Alex Flint of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), a Washington-base trade group. “How long is the recession going to last? When are we going to see the demand forecast pick up?”
After GOP takeover of the House, President Obama zeroed in on nuclear energy as an issue about which Democrats and Republicans “can move forward.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, agreed.
The president’s backing of industry initiatives - earlier this year, he offered federal loan guarantees for the first new reactor projects in the U.S. in more than 30 years - combined with support from powerful returning Republicans like Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, have nuclear officials optimistic.
“I thought it was indicative of the times that, in their talks immediately after the election, the president, [incoming House Speaker John A.] Boehner and Sen. McConnell all mentioned nuclear energy,” Mr. Flint said. “That is because nuclear energy is now … at the center of the debate about energy policy. We do believe it is the middle ground on which both parties can compromise.”
The industry, which currently generates about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity, has worked hard to present itself as a cleaner alternative to coal- and natural gas-fired plants and as an energy source that could ease the country’s dependence on foreign oil. Those efforts have helped the industry rebuild public and political support that dissipated in the wake of 1979’s Three Mile Island meltdown.
In the first two years of the Obama administration, the White House has backed the loan guarantees, Virginia Sen. Jim Webb has called for doubling nuclear capacity, and even liberal Democrats like California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. John Kerry have expressed support for a greater role by the industry.
Now, with pro-nuclear Republican allies set to ascend to key committee leadership roles in the GOP-controlled House, the industry is hoping for bipartisan support for nuclear energy initiatives.
Mr. Upton, the Republican expected to take over for California’s Henry A. Waxman as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, for example, has made it clear that nuclear energy is a priority.
“Despite nuclear power’s tremendous potential, the nation is lacking a coherent policy as we look toward the future. Nuclear was largely ignored as the job-killing cap-and-tax scheme made its way through the House last June,” Mr. Upton wrote in an editorial published in April.
“The world’s leading emitters understand the importance of nuclear power in reducing emissions. It is well past time we do the same or risk being left behind,” he wrote.
Mr. Upton’s rival for that key leadership post is Mr. Barton, long a vocal supporter of nuclear energy and the oil industry - he most recently drew notice for his apology to British Petroleum after the Gulf Coast oil spill.
The nuclear industry is expected to get a boost no matter which congressman wins the chairmanship.
“The new Congress will be more pro-nuclear than any … we’ve seen in decades,” said Don Gillispie, chief executive officer of Alternate Energy Holdings Inc., a Boise, Idaho-based company that seeks to build new nuclear power plants and desalination systems. “We should see a resurgence of the industry, the likes of which we haven’t seen in 30 years.”
There are skeptics.
Anti-nuclear power activists are already sounding the alarm about the costs of taxpayer-guaranteed loans and the environmental dangers of the “nuclear renaissance.”
In Vermont last week, Democrat Peter Shumlin won a close race for governor after promising to shut down the state’s troubled Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.
And fiscal conservatives, especially those among the “tea party” candidates sweeping into Congress, will have to decide which they find less objectionable: ongoing dependence on foreign oil or the federal subsidies sought by the nuclear industry.
“There are a lot of new faces coming to Congress,” said the NEI’s Mr. Kerekes. “So it’s a little difficult to handicap at this point. But if we want to have a meaningful impact on reducing greenhouse gases, there has to be a substantive role for nuclear energy going forward, just based on our track record.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
David Eldridge joined The Washington Times in 1999 and over the next seven years helped lead the paper’s coverage of regional politics and government, Sept. 11, and the sniper attacks of 2002. In 2006, he was named managing editor of the paper’s Web site. He came to The Times from the Telegraph in North Platte, Neb., where he served as ...
- John McCain, in Kiev, tells protesters that Ukraine is 'inspiring the world'
- Sens. Klobuchar, Collins predict a deal by Thursday
- Rand Paul: GOP can't accept Democrats' attempts to undo sequesters
- Lew says health exchange rollout glitches typical for new software
- John Boehner, Ted Cruz: Upcoming debt-ceiling vote will have conditions
Latest Blog Entries
- Mainers would rather move to Canada than down South
- McCain: 'Stand your ground' laws may need review
- Sen. Tom Coburn: Holder investigating himself is a 'total conflict of interest'
- CNN poll: IRS, AP and Benghazi haven't dinged Obama's approval rating
- Slain diplomat's mom on Obama's Benghazi comments: 'Bullfeathers'
By John R. Bolton
The president fiddles at his domestic altar while the world burns
- U.S. Army mulls wiping out memory of Robert E. Lee, 'Stonewall' Jackson
- Gov't wasted $30 billion on 'pillownauts,' crystal goblets -- buying human urine!
- Half of America strips religion from Christmas
- BOLTON: Nero in the White House
- We told you so: Conservatives foresaw polygamy ruling
- EDITORIAL: Al Gore, soothsayer
- HURT: D.C. gets the vapors, calls sequester too much
- Army to cut up to 4,000 captains and majors
- Obama mocks Putin, picks gay athletes for Sochi delegation
- Top Democrats reject court ruling over NSA spying on Americans
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
An objective, analysis-based perspective of D.C. sports as seen through the eyes of lifelong D.C. sports enthusiast, John Heibel.
Human interest stories to feed interest, satisfy curiosity and see outside the box.
The cold hard truth about politics in America today and the state of this once great nation.
In a world that is increasingly complex, we need to seek greater awareness of the blending of cultures and America's changing role in a global community.
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow