How a moratorium on nuclear power could stop Obama’s clean energy agenda in its tracks

Even as the fate of the nuclear reactors in earthquake-ravaged Japan remains unclear, the Obama administration’s clean energy agenda has been put into jeopardy by the threat of Japan’s nuclear nightmare.

As soon as the nuclear plants rose to the forefront of concerns resulting from Thursday’s earthquake, lawmakers and environmental advocates took the opportunity to make the case for reassessing nuclear power.

On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said, “I think it calls on us here in the U.S., naturally, not to stop building nuclear power plants but to put the brakes on right now until we understand the ramifications of what’s happened in Japan.”

Democratic Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts went so far as to call for a moratorium on nuclear power plants, warning of “another Chernobyl” and suggesting that the “same thing could happen here.”

But what would a de facto moratorium on nuclear power do to Obama’s clean energy agenda and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to regulate greenhouse gases?

Before the disaster in Japan, nuclear power was making a comeback as a middle ground in clean energy technology. There was, in fact, a “nuclear renaissance” on the horizon.

It was becoming so acceptable that, at least publicly, President Obama endorsed nuclear as a solid option for his clean energy agenda. In his 2010 State of the Union address, Obama said that clean energy jobs depended on “a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.”

After that presidential address, nuclear power became the center piece of the war against fossil fuels and the push to convert to renewable energy. It is clean, relatively safe, and shows results. Today, 20 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from nuclear power. It is also the only renewable energy source that can claim such a successful track record.

Shortly after the president’s 2010 address, the EPA solidified the president’s support for nuclear power by assuming the creation of 100 new nuclear power plants in its economic analysis of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) soon followed suit, assuming the creation of 100 new nuclear reactors in 25 years.

The inclusion of the 100 nuclear reactors in cap and trade analyses not only made the system appear financially sound, but it also lured nuclear power proponents on Capitol Hill like Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee into supporting the clean energy agenda.

Now, some observers say, if those nuclear reactors never materialize because of a de facto moratorium, neither will Obama’s full energy agenda or the EPA’s attempts at CO2 regulations.

According to Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the EPA and the Waxman-Markey legislation assumed the creation of 100 nuclear reactors in order to artificially lower the cost of regulations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Taylor/1227016022 Paul Taylor

    Large areas of northeastern Japan are a wasteland after the country’s strongest earthquake on record triggered powerful tsunami wave. The combined destruction of quake and tsunami flooding have killed hundreds and forced tens of thousands of people from their homes and workplaces. Hundreds of towns and villages in Japan’s northeast were devastated by the 8.9 magnitude quake that was centered 100 miles off the area’s Pacific coast. A tsunami wave 23 ft. high washed six miles inland, and receded to leave massive flooding, deaths and building destruction.

    Japan, one of the world’s top three economies, operates 55 nuclear power plants – 11 now shutdown due to the quake, five others placed on critical containment status, and the Fukushima reactor idled with a ruptured containment capsule releasing deadly radioactive gases, particles and debris. The unpredictable natural disaster of an earthquake in Japan has caused a nuclear power plant to fail, and release radioactive materials that are toxic for 300 to 3,000 years in the environment.

    The 1986 nuclear reactor accident at Chernobyl in Ukraine spread radioactivity and death over eastern Europe and despair in the Western world’s nuclear power industry. Chernobyl, along with the non-lethal accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979, sent the industry into decades of decline.

    Enviro-groups will predictably leverage the new enviro-hysteria of “Fukushima” to stop the expansion of nuclear power in America. Just as they have used the examples of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island as pejoratives against the U.S.’s current 104 nuclear power plants that provide about 18% of our electricity. Nuclear power expansion is necessary in America for economic, security and environmental reasons. The energy from one pound of uranium is equivalent to 1.3 million pounds of coal energy. Nuclear power produces none of the greenhouse gases associated with global warming.

    Just as the “green screams” of “BP” demonized our oil production and oil independence, listen for the next enviro-groups’ rallying cries of “Fukushima” to demonize our nuclear energy production and energy independence.

  • savage24

    Why is it that everytime a disaster happens the news media goes ballistic and the goofball politicians come popping up wanting more regulations? A time for cool heads to prevail gives way to hot heads on a mission to further destroy our country. Clean power may be desirable, but without nuclear power it will never reach the proportions required to power this nation.

    • virginiagentleman

      savage24, did you ever hear of ‘pavlovs dogs’? Thats what is happening in the press and government. Pavlov would ring a bell when it was time to feed the dogs in his experiment. Once the dogs got used to the bell announcing feeding time, he changed it up on them. Thereafter, when he rang his bell, the dogs would salivate, thinking they were going to be fed, EVEN WHEN THERE WASN’T ANY FOOD OFFERED! They just slobbered all over themselves and each other!

  • Lou

    We should have a moratorium on congress.

    • didacticrogue

      We should have a moratorium on congress government.”

      There: FIFY.

  • Rocketman

    This moratorium nonsense is a typical leftist, knee-jerk reaction. America COULD be energy independent if only people would smarten up.
    And yes it IS a national security issue. Leftists and assorted Dems beholden to envirowhackos will do anything to stifle progress. It’s not like a nuclear power plant can be erected and operational in a year or two once given the green light.
    Democrats are akin to Luddites.


    • irony

      So because one democrat renounces nuclear power, every single democrat is a stupid Luddite? And because they listen to the fact that assorted constituents have a problem, they are in the way of progress? By all means, I fully support nuclear power, and do have progressive / liberal tendencies, but to generalize every single democrat as a Luddite is wrong. Was there not an article on this site not too long ago about a democrat proposing new clean energy investments? Does the democrat president not support it, despite pushing it forward repeatedly? People all have varying opinions, and no two democrats have identical ideas on everything. Less outright generalization and demonization of your opponents to suit your needs please.

  • thephranc

    We should have a moratorium on cars.

  • old man

    The news media are using this to the max. Look at this— http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/13/fukushima-simple-explanation/. The reactors survived the earthquake, it was the tsunami that took out the emergency generators and stopped the cooling of the reactor core. Even if the entire core melts and sinks to the bottom, it will be contained and then cool down. Three Mile Island was a complete melt down and not one person died. Just select a site not in earthquake zone away from the ocean.

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