Connecting Dots for a Nuclear Stratagem

March 24th, 2005

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Here are the dots that I am connecting:

According to yesterday’s New York Times,

(1) “In a speech on Monday at a two-day conference on “nuclear energy for the 21st century,” Constance Morella, the American ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, told an audience of government officials and nuclear experts from more than 70 countries that American support of nuclear energy “has never been stronger.” Nuclear energy is clean, reliable, necessary for the world to have a secure energy supply and “a benefit to humankind,” she said. Ms. Morella cited a study estimating that global energy demand was expected to rise by about 60 percent over the next 25 years. “America hasn’t ordered a nuclear power plant since the 1970’s, and it’s time to start building again,” she quoted President Bush as saying recently.”

(2) According to an AP story, “In a message to the conference, U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman cited a University of Chicago study that showed nuclear power “can become competitive with electricity produced by plants fueled by coal or gas” because of new technologies delivering more efficient reactors. Echoing recent comments by President Bush, Bodman said: “America hasn’t ordered a new nuclear power plant since the 1970s and it’s time to start building again.””

(3) When President Bush’s science advisor John Marburger visited us last month he said, “We have a very big job ahead of us. Every country is going to have to use new technology, either to remove the Co2 from emissions from hydrocarbon burning power plants or to use some other way, some alternate method, of energy generation. So, this is what we have got to do and I think that we should get on with it and not get hung up over the Kyoto Protocol.”

(4) Dr. Marburger also said in reply to my question, “What is the future for the next four years on climate change like under the Bush Administration?”

“Well, I think we’ll have to wait. I think perhaps the international conferences that are coming up, there is a G8 meeting, I think that there will be opportunities for the President to say what he intends to do. I don’t have — I mean, I can’t talk too much of words in the President’s mouth, but it is pretty clear where he has been and his commitment to this approach to taking responsibility for CO2 emissions is impressive to me. And I think that we ought to take advantage of the fact that we have a President who is willing to make and to advocate for that kind of investment, whatever we think about the details of the relation between Co2 emissions and actual climate change.”

(5) Condaleeza Rice recently said something similar in response to a question about climate change, “… from our point of view, from the point of view of the President, who has put forward an energy plan, a comprehensive energy plan to the Congress, we need to tap all supplies, all prospective supplies of energy, and that includes nuclear energy. The United States has not been in that business for a long time.”

All of this looks to me like the Bush Administration is working towards some sort of major new initiative or announcement on nuclear power, all but certainly linked to the climate issue. Such an announcement would be responsive to Tony Blair’s calls for the U.S. to become more engaged in the climate issue, and would also raise some difficult issues for Bush’s historical opponents on the climate issue. The upcoming G8 meeting in Scotland in July would be a perfect opportunity to announce such an initiative.

2 Responses to “Connecting Dots for a Nuclear Stratagem”

  1. John Fleck Says:

    On #2, I don’t know if the AP story is quoting Bodman accurately, but if it is he’s representing the University of Chicago Study. Here’s how I summarized it[1]: “The nuclear power industry needs a federal subsidy jump-start for new plants to be competitive with coal and natural gas, according to a new study released Monday. But if coal and natural gas had to pay the full costs associated with their contribution to global warming, their economic edge over nuclear power would largely disappear, the study concluded.”

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  3. John Fleck Says:

    Uggh. That should be “misrepresenting the Chicago study”.