According to the ever thoughtful Joe Lieberman, the US should “put the brakes” on all the new nuclear power plants we’re not building. That’s what he told CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation.
“I don’t want to stop the building of nuclear power plants,” independent Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
“But I think we’ve got to kind of quietly put, quickly put the brakes on until we can absorb what has happened in Japan as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami and then see what more, if anything, we can demand of the new power plants that are coming on line,” Lieberman added.
Lieberman, an influential voice in the U.S. Congress on domestic security matters, described himself as a “big supporter of nuclear power because it’s domestic, it’s ours and it’s clean.” He also touted “a good safety record” with nuclear power plants in the United States.
Now, let’s put aside the question of why anyone in America cares what Joe Lieberman thinks about anything; apparently Bob cares so that’s enough. And it’s only marginally more pointless than having NBC’s clueless host interview Mitch Daniels on the assumption that with nothing particularly interesting or pressing happening in the world, what we all want to know is whether Mitch Daniels is crazy enough to win the Tea-GOP nomination.
There hasn’t been a new nuclear plant built in the United States since the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. The plant suffered a partial meltdown which partially fractured the reactor vessel that’s not supposed to fracture and was destroyed, and with it the utilities’ confidence they could manage nuclear’s financial and safety risks.
There’s no legal moratorium in the US, but the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, captured by the industry, has pursued a newer generic design that its proponents claim is better than ever. But until now, no one was willing to put up their own money, or ask regulators to extract it from electricity ratepayers, for a technology that takes a decade to build, creates long-run waste disposal liabilities and could expose you and your company to catastrophic losses. Utilities aren’t that stupid.
It’s been that way for 30 years, but today there a few large utilities, like Southern Company, and several unregulated generation owners, like Exelon, who own and successfully operate collections of existing nukes. They claim that building nukes can be profitable, provided they can get massive federal subsidies, federal loan guarantees, and catastrophic loss liability limits, plus (for regulated utilities) advance rate recovery from compliant public utility commissions and guaranteed markets. In short, they need very sweet deals, access to the public trough, and limits on their liability and exposure if the plant (literally) melts down or blows up.
The point is, there are very good reasons why ain’t nobody building no nukes now, and it’s not likely anyone will be doing so in the near future unless we give them sweetheart deals.
So, yeah, I think they should immediately stop construction on all the plants that are not under construction because none has a permit, no one can afford one, and no one is willing to put up the money unless they get federal subsidies and loan guarantees from the Tea-GOP Congress that tells us we’re broke and we can’t even afford tsunami warning centers, but that doesn’t matter because the poor can’t afford to live on the coast anyway.
But there’s courageous Joe Lieberman, slamming his foot on the brakes of a stalled car that he doesn’t own and can’t afford, doesn’t have a license, with no money for gas, an untested engine, and hasn’t moved in 30 years. It’s enough to give you whiplash.
So, did Bob Schieffer ask him why he’d make such a ridiculous, pandering statement? Will anyone?