LA Times: Nuclear power enters global warming debate

Nuclear power enters global warming debate – Los Angeles Times
Currently, 103 nuclear plants — including Diablo Canyon near San Luis
Obispo and San Onofre in northern San Diego County — generate about 20%
of the nation’s electricity.

The amount of congressional support for nuclear power is unclear.

When McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) added subsidies for
nuclear power to their 2005 bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions, they
lost support from environmentalists and votes in Congress, including

said he had no idea whether he would be more successful this time. But
he said there was “no way that you could ever seriously attack the
issue of greenhouse gas emissions without nuclear power, and anybody
who tells you differently is not telling the truth.”

On Capitol
Hill last month, former Vice President Al Gore, who has become a
leading advocate for swift action on climate change, said he saw
nuclear plants as a “small part” of the strategy.

“They’re so expensive, and they take so long to build, and at present they only come in one size: extra large,” he said.

“And people don’t want to make that kind of investment in an uncertain market for energy demand.”

McCain-Lieberman bill, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
by 2050 to a third of 2000 levels, would provide federal loans or
guarantees to subsidize as many as three advanced reactor projects.

U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Public Citizen said the bill
would authorize more than $3.7 billion in subsidies for new nuclear

Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), a cosponsor of the
McCain-Lieberman legislation, thinks support for nuclear power could
bring more votes.

“Three or four years ago, if you included
nuclear, you lost more than you gained,” he said. “Today … you pick up
more than you lose.”

But nuclear power faces huge political and economic obstacles.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) remains opposed to the planned
Yucca Mountain nuclear waste disposal site in his state.

Philip E. Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, said he
did not think subsidies could overcome the concerns of potential
investors. “There isn’t enough money in the federal till to change Wall
Street’s calculation of the financial risks,” he said.

Even some lawmakers who support nuclear power question whether the industry needs more federal money.

Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural
Resources Committee, sees nuclear power as a “mature industry,” said
Bill Wicker, his spokesman. “Emerging climate-friendly and genuinely
renewable technologies like wind and solar and geothermal and biomass
could use that [funding] boost,” Wicker said.

Some environmentalists remain steadfastly opposed to nuclear power.

in energy conservation and renewable energy are quicker, more
cost-effective and sustainable ways to reduce global warming
emissions,” said Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth, which will oppose
McCain’s bill as long as it contains subsidies for nuclear power.

environmentalists also note that carbon emissions from nuclear fuel
processing are significant. They say the costs and risks of nuclear
power are too high and far greater than alternatives, such as solar and
wind power.

“Switching from coal to nukes,” said Dan Becker,
director of the Sierra Club’s global warming program, “is like giving
up smoking and taking up crack.”


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