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November 10, 2007

Nukes, Nuclear Power and Global Warming


by Gordon Prather

To the horror of Jason Leopold, Senior Editor at Truthout, Dick Cheney and Clay Sell, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Energy, have been regularly visiting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ever since Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 [.pdf], which, inter alia, changed the start and end dates of daylight saving time.

Why the visits?

Well, the National Energy Policy Development Group – chaired by Vice President Cheney – had recommended in 2001 that President Bush support the expansion of nuclear energy in the United States "as a major component of our national energy policy" by encouraging the NRC "to expedite applications for licensing new advanced-technology nuclear reactors," and supporting extension of the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 did extend Price-Anderson.

Furthermore, the Act provided "investment protection" in the form of "standby support" or "risk assurance" to offset the financial impact of delays "beyond industry’s control" that could occur during construction and initial phases of plant "startup." It provides for 100 percent coverage of the cost of delays for the first two new plants for up to $500 million each, and 50 percent of the cost of delays for up to $250 million each, for plants three through six.

The Act provides a production tax credit of 1.8 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first eight years of operation of the first six plants. Other sources of carbon "emission-free power" have received such a production tax credit since 1992.

As a result of these incentives, the NRC expects to receive by the end of this year up to 25 combined construction and operating license [COL] applications.

Leopold reports that in September, NRG Energy submitted an application to build two new General Electric ESBWR nuclear power plants in Bay City, Texas, a "move that came as direct result of several private meetings NRG lobbyists held with Cheney and Sell."

Worse, in October, an application was filed with the NRC by NuStart Energy Development to construct two Westinghouse-Toshiba AP1000 nuclear reactors, which received NRC Design Certification two years ago. According to Leopold, the costs for design certification of the AP1000s under NRC’s new streamlined program were underwritten by a special Bush-Cheney DOE program, the Nuclear Power 2010 Initiative.

Well, you can see why Leopold is horrified.

Or can you?

Many Greenies have been extremely upset with Bush-Cheney.

Because Bush-Cheney launched an unprovoked war of aggression against Iraq on the false pretext of preventing Saddam Hussein from reconstructing his capability to enrich small amounts of uranium?

Or because Bush-Cheney appear to be on the verge of launching another unprovoked war of aggression to prevent the Iranian Mullahs from completing their capability – operated in accord with their Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency – to enrich large amounts of uranium?

No, neither of those wars of aggression appear to particularly upset those Greenies who have long been anti-nuclear-everything, and appear to equate – as do Bush-Cheney, the Likudniks and the neo-crazies – the proliferation of IAEA Safeguarded uranium-enrichment facilities with the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In any case, the Greenies have been applauding several recent victories over Bush-Cheney.

Earlier this year the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had no "reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change."

Then, recently, Al Gore got an Academy Award for his "documentary" – An Inconvenient Truth – which declared anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions to be the "single greatest threat" to civilization.

Soon thereafter Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the UN International Panel on Climate Change for their efforts to address that single greatest threat.

The IPCC's stated mission is "to assess the scientific, technical, and socioeconomic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change."

The operative terms are "assess" and "human-induced."

The IPCC has three working groups, one of which is charged with assessing options for limiting "human" greenhouse gas emissions.

Evidently, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee agrees with the assessment of Gore and the IPCC – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary – that the greatest threat to World Peace is not the apparent intention of Bush-Cheney to launch yet another war of aggression.

Well, maybe they’re right.

And maybe Bush-Cheney won’t launch yet another war of aggression before leaving office.

After all, the way things are going to hell in a wheelbarrow – largely as a result of Bush-Cheney actions – in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, Bush would have to be a certified End of Timer to accelerate the process.

So, who knows? Maybe next year the Peace Prize will go to Bush-Cheney for their efforts to dramatically curtail anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide, by accelerating the construction – everywhere but in Iran – of nuclear power plants.

Even James Lovelock – father of the Gaia hypothesis – might applaud that award. After all, Greenie Lovelock apparently agrees with the IPCC assessment and urges the fastest possible substitution of nuclear energy for fossil fuels:

"Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies, and the media. These fears are unjustified, and nuclear energy from its start in 1952 has proved to be the safest of all energy sources.

"I am a Green, and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy. Even if they were right about its dangers – and they are not – its worldwide use as our main source of energy would pose an insignificant threat compared with the dangers of intolerable and lethal heat waves and sea levels rising to drown every coastal city of the world.

"We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilization is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear – the one safe, available energy source – now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet."

So, the Nobel Peace Prize for Bush-Cheney?

Bring it on!


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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