the (new) american worker

Nuclear: Is It Really Worth It?
February 19, 2010, 12:45 pm
Filed under: nuclear | Tags: , , , ,

President Obama put the nuclear debate back on the map this week with a high-profile announcement that his administration will guarantee a $8.33 billion loan towards building the nation’s first nuclear units in thirty years. The loan guarantee will go to Georgian-based Southern Company, to open the last two of four reactors the company has been trying for decades to complete.

Obama's "Nuclear Bet:" Southern Co. and the Vogtle power plant

Nuclear. Just the word brings to mind a stark landscape of hulking reactors and radioactive waste. It seems so…retro. Is Obama and his energy team really moving us forward with this one?

Hardly, says Michael Grunwald in his TIME piece: “Why Obama’s Nuclear Bet Won’t Pay Off.” Look past the outcry from the greenies, and the eons-long commitment to waste storage, and there is still the obscene costs, something Grunwald calls “the insanity of nuclear economics.”

Grunwald writes that when Southern Company first started building the Vogtle Power Plant, it put a $1 billion price tag on four reactors. By 1989, that number had raised to $9 billion – for only two of the four. Now, Southern Co. is looking for help to finally build those last two reactors, a cost it estimates at $14 billion.

Grunwald adds:

“And you can be sure that number is way too low, because nuclear cost estimates are always way too low.”

His piece goes on to acknowledge that yes, the Vogtle plant is expected to create “3,500 well-paying jobs,” if ground is broken next year, and yes, nuclear power really is emissions-free. Two points for Obama. But minus one for the state of Georgia, since the Vogtle reactors are expected to increase resident electricity bills by nine percent. Residents also may not be so thrilled to hear that the federal government is likely stepping in as a lender of last resort, since Wall Street won’t touch nuclear and credit ratings agencies have consistently downgraded any utilities with nuclear plans. Ouch.

Nuclear runs rain or shine, so it is understandable why our country is currently so dependent upon it. But it seems to me like a better use of fiscal resources would be to invest more heavily in energy efficiency and the gradual reduction of dependencies altogether. It would be like looking nuclear in the face and saying “we can do better” –  and get a better price.

–Mia Lamar


Obama Talks Nuclear
February 16, 2010, 11:54 pm
Filed under: Washington | Tags: , , ,

President Obama spoke at an nuclear energy training center in Langham, Maryland today to tout programs embedded in the Economic Recovery Act that will ultimately “create 700,000 jobs” in clean energy infrastructure and initiatives.

He pointed to America’s pithy place on the world stage in building new energy economies, particularly nuclear.

“Our competitors are racing to create jobs and command growing nuclear industries,” Obama said. “Jobs will be produced overseas, instead of here in the United States of America.”

The first anniversary of the Economic Recovery Act comes tomorrow and the president and his many advisers are hitting the street to talk up what many regard as limited success in job creation. Once a core White House talking point, Obama’s grand plans for training and development in new energy and sustainable infrastructure seemed adrift just months ago. After the State of the Union Address last month, Obama has aggressively retaken this cause, though his foray into nuclear is a trickier political maneuver – and a questionable one too.

Obama’s SOTU: Back to Basics
January 28, 2010, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Washington | Tags: , , , ,

Remember when Barack Obama was going to rebuild the crippled American economy with large-scale investments in a new energy economy and sustainable infrastructure? If you don’t recall, it’s probably because his best intentions were lost in the major meltdown that is health care reform.

In a State of the Union Address that swung from humbled to defiant, sometimes in the same sentence, it appeared our president is either renewing that promise, or some really good poll told him he should. Either way, the president lined his jobs-heavy speech last night with all sorts of references to building green energy industries.

In his own words: (via Baltimore Sun)

“We will build on the historic $80 billion investment made through the Recovery Act. The President’s vision includes investments in important technologies to diversity our energy sources and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, including:  the renewal of our nation’s nuclear energy industry after a 30-year hiatus, cutting edge biofuel and clean coal technologies, and additional offshore oil and gas drilling.  To fully transition to a clean energy economy and create millions of new American jobs, we must pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation to promote energy independence and address climate change.”

Right idea – now can we get the ball rolling on this (and pass health care too?)