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Sen. Kerry downplays prospect of floor debate on the climate bill this year; Sen. Alexander is still unaware of staggering cost of nuclear power

By Joe Romm on October 27, 2009 at 9:08 am

"Sen. Kerry downplays prospect of floor debate on the climate bill this year; Sen. Alexander is still unaware of staggering cost of nuclear power"

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E&E News (subs. req’d) reports this morning:

International attention on the Senate’s progress on the issue is heightened given the major U.N. climate summit to be held this December in Copenhagen, Denmark. Underscoring that point, Reid yesterday took a call from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“The secretary general emphasized the urgency of trying to have some movement in the Senate” before the Copenhagen meeting, Kerry said. “I think we’re going to deliver some movement because we’re working in the EPW Committee to try to get the Kerry-Boxer bill and the chairman’s mark out.”

Meanwhile, Kerry also downplayed the prospect of floor debate on the climate bill this year, signaling instead that committee action is about as far as he expects the Senate can go before the two-week Copenhagen negotiations begin on Dec. 7.

“Bottom line, we’re going to keep working this as hard as we can,” Kerry said. “We’re going to keep moving forward. I’m confident we’ll have some kind of effort, whether it’s out of committee, or out of all the committees, or the working group or whatever, before we go to Copenhagen. We’re going to try to do as much as we can.”

Not a big surprise, given how slow the overall legislative process has been moving in EPW and the molasses pace of health care reform.  Indeed, it bears repeating that back in early February, Greenwire reported (see “Breaking: Sen. Boxer makes clear U.S. won’t pass a climate bill this year“):

“Copenhagen is December,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) told reporters. “That’s why I said we’ll have a bill out of this committee by then.”

I’ve blogged many times I don’t think that the White House needs to have a signed climate bill “” or even Senate passage “” for Copenhagen to be successful in the sense of moving international negotiations forward.

I think it would be useful for Kerry and Graham to have fleshed out their breakthrough Senate climate partnership and their “framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future that will revitalize our economy, protect current jobs and create new ones, safeguard our national security and reduce pollution.”

On July 7, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) called nuclear “the cheap clean energy solution,” renews GOP call for 100 new nukes, which would cost some $1 trillion.

Since then, new nukes have gotten even more expensive — Nuclear Bombshell: $26 Billion cost “” $10,800 per kilowatt! “” killed Ontario nuclear bid. And more frought with legal danger — see The Nukes of (legal) Hazard, Episode 5: Areva threatens work stoppage at Finnish nuke.

But Lamar is still rerunning the same story.  Here is what “GOP Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said during a conference call” yesterday:

Alexander urged Democrats to move on what he said was a lower cost alternative that promotes the expansion of nuclear power, offshore oil and gas drilling, carbon capture and storage, and the electrification of the nation’s transportation fleet.“If my house was about to burn down, I wouldn’t buy the most expensive insurance,” Alexander said.

Huh?  Well, I’m glad he acknowledges the imminent climate danger in that final quote.

But in any case the House and Senate bill aggressively pursues CCS and transportation electrification, and the Senate bill will have a nuclear title and drilling title.  But CCS is staggeringly expensive Harvard stunner: “Realistic” first-generation CCS costs a whopping $150 per ton of CO2 “” 20 cents per kWh!

And E&E News itself notes nuclear is too:

“I think the biggest impediment of aggressive nuclear technology is its cost,” said Ralph Izzo, chairman, president and CEO of the New Jersey-based utility Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. PSEG is waiting for the first new reactors to be licensed and built before making any decision about new nuclear plants, he said. “The cost is not within my comfort level right now,” he said.

A June report by Moody’s Investor Services maintained that the credit agency “is considering taking a more negative view for those issuers seeking to build new nuclear power plants,” as most utilities are not adjusting their balance sheets to commence on such an endeavor and as a reflection of the high risk involved in a possible $6 billion to $8 billion investment.

The report notes federal loan guarantees will “only modestly mitigate increasing business and operating risk profile.”

Nuclear power is the most expensive climate “insurance” you could possibly buy right now.

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8 Responses to Sen. Kerry downplays prospect of floor debate on the climate bill this year; Sen. Alexander is still unaware of staggering cost of nuclear power

  1. Jerome says:

    Of course, the Alexander quote is silly economically speaking as well. If you knew that your house was going to burn down, then you would buy expensive insurance and receive a larger payout after it was destroyed.

    [JR: How about this? No one would give you a payout — since you were the one burning your own house down, a climate arsonist!

  2. David Lewis says:

    A “senior diplomat” quoted on Canadian radio after the talks in New York recently said he’s never attended anything at this high level where so little has been worked out as to what they want to accomplish, or what they might accomplish.

    Graceila Chichilnisky, who wrote the clause putting cap and trade into the Kyoto agreement had this to say about Copenhagen pessimism during a recent lecture at the London School of Economics: “the [Kyoto] Protocol, until the 11th and one half hour, was not going anywhere….” She went on to explain that the tide didn’t turn until December 16th. The agreement was signed on December 17th.

  3. Government interest in new nuclear energy plants seems far more political than practical or economic…

    “The U.S. taxpayer could be on the hook for 360 billion to 1.6 trillion dollars. This potentially is as large or larger than the U.S. financial crisis,” — Union of Concerned Scientists in my article:

    Lavish US Lobbying Pushes Nuclear Energy
    http://stephenleahy.net/2009/10/27/environment-lavish-us-lobbying-pushes-nuclear-energy-ips-ipsnews-net/

  4. crf says:

    Joe,
    what are your thoughts on 4th generation nuclear power?

  5. Bill Woods says:

    According to one NRC official, this AP1000 problem is pretty much a non-issue.

    There is a forthcoming meeting with the NRC where they are going to present the approach and we’ll pursue it. I do not see this as a significant, insurmountable engineering issue. The question of the change is to be able to do the modular construction and keep the construction schedule in the 4-6 year time frame with existing, engineering acceptable techniques. I think you are going to see a resolution pretty soon.
    http://atomicinsights.blogspot.com/2009/10/luis-reyes-regional-administrator-for.html

  6. Peter Wood says:

    As far as I am aware, the US has not pledged any medium term emission reductions as part of the UNFCCC negotiating process. If the bill could go far enough through the Senate that the US would be able to do this, then that would really help the negotiations. If may be the case that the Copenhagen negotiations will be suspended before the end of the conference, with negotiations continuing within the next 6 months. In that case, it would be really important to have Senate passage within the next 6 months.

  7. James Newberry says:

    Introduction to atomic fission: 1957 Price-Anderson Insurance Indemnification Act, makes it illegal for American property owners to insure against loss from corporations using this technology. Thus, more massive market fraud creating one of the nation’s great Ponzi schemes along with permanent (intergenerational) debt. Some have questioned whether this law is constitutional, ie. legal in a democracy.

    You can not solve a contamination problem (setting fire to mined hydrocarbon material resources) with a contamination problem.