IBEW Hosts Obama Announcement on Nuclear Power

Union Leader Praises Job-Creating Step that Will Help Numerous Industries

The IBEW issued the following new release today:

President Edwin D. Hill of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers today called President Barack Obama’s announcement of loan guarantees by the U.S. Department of Energy for the construction of two advanced reactors at the Plant Vogtle nuclear power station in Georgia as a major step forward in addressing the United States’ energy needs as well as creating badly needed jobs. The announcement took place while the President visited a skills training facility in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., jointly administered by IBEW Local 26 and local electrical contractors.

 Says Hill:

This is a great day because we’re here to celebrate an important step in the road to true recovery. The loan guarantee for construction of a nuclear plant in Georgia is a prime example of what needs to be done to address the jobs crisis in our nation. The public and private sectors must work together. The jobs must go to people in the local areas so that their wages can be pumped back into the local community. And the fact that the project will help address our critical need for clean, reliable, safe energy is a major plus for the state of Georgia and by extension the entire country.

Hill noted that the green light for the Plant Vogtle project as well as other nuclear facilities in the planning stages will have a ripple effect of job creation not only for construction, but also in the manufacturing of parts for these plants as well as skilled personnel needed to run them.

Says Hill:

The kind of jobs we need in America – good jobs that require a high level of skill and pay a decent wage and offer benefits like health insurance – are in short supply. This project and more like it will spell the difference between an America that continues to be a beacon of opportunity and a land that falls back in the pack among the economic powers of the world.

In addition to its members in the electrical construction industry, the IBEW represents workers who manufacture parts used in nuclear reactors as well as those in the utility industry, including some 15,000 workers at nuclear power plants in the United States and Canada. Among the utilities employing IBEW members is the Southern Company, which owns the Plant Vogtle power station.

Obama's "Five Worst Nominees"

Over at the Mother Jones blog, Kate Sheppard, David Corn and Daniel Schulman compiled a list of "Obama's Five Worst Nominees." Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner doesn't make the cut, which surprised me until I read the short bios of appointees who are likely to put corporate interests ahead of the public interest. In alphabetical order:

William Lynn, for whom the president made an exception to his policy on lobbyists in government. Lynn was the chief lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon before becoming deputy secretary of defense in the Obama administration.

William Magwood, a "cheerleader for nuclear power" who has "worked for reactor maker Westinghouse and has run two firms that advise companies on nuclear projects." Obama nominated him for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Scott O'Malia, who was apparently suggested by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. O'Malia "was a lobbyist for Mirant, an Enron-like energy-trading firm" and lobbied for weakening the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to which Obama appointed him.

Joseph Pizarchik, who helped form policies in Pennsylvania to allow disposal of toxic coal ash in unlined pits. Obama named him director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Islam Siddiqui, whom Obama appointed to be the chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. trade representative. Jill Richardson has been on this case at La Vida Locavore; see here and here on why Siddiqui is the wrong person for this job.

I wouldn't suggest that this rogue's gallery is representative of Obama appointees, but it's depressing to see any of them in this administration.

In the good news column, Obama has decided to renominate Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, along with five other nominees who didn't receive a confirmation vote in the Senate last year.

The Alexander-Webb Nuclear Initiative

GOP Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia unveiled bipartisan legislation aimed at doubling nuclear power in 20 years and increasing funding for research into low carbon sources of energy. Their bill, introduced on Monday, would provide $100 billion in loan guarantees for carbon-free electricity projects, adding to the existing $47 billion loan guarantee program. Although the additional loan guarantees would not be limited to nuclear power, the nuclear industry would likely be the major recipient of the extra money because it is one of the most established low carbon energy sources.

More from Reuters:

The legislation comes as Senate Democrats work to draw more support for controversial climate legislation by crafting measures that would increase support for nuclear power and offshore drilling.

This bill is separate from the climate legislation currently making its way through the Senate, said Alexander and Webb.

Alexander said senators working to advance the climate bill may try to incorporate some provisions from his legislation, but that was not his intention.

Alexander does not support establishing an economy-wide, cap-and-trade system to lower carbon emissions.

"I do believe that climate change is an issue and we need to deal with carbon in the air," Alexander told reporters at an American Nuclear Society conference.

"I think the most effective way to do it is to double nuclear production and to do heavy (research and development) on alternative energy," he added.

The lawmakers' energy bill would cost up to $20 billion over 10 years.

In addition to the loan guarantees, the bill would provide $750 million annually for 10 years to research and development of: carbon capture and storage, advanced biofuels, batteries for electric cars, solar power and recycling used nuclear fuel.

Comprehensive climate legislation that would limit greenhouse gas emissions has run into opposition in the Senate even from some moderate Democrats including Senator Webb who does not back the Senate bill in its current form.

"I have a lot of reservations about cap and trade as a concept," Webb said. "And I have very strong reservations about the notion that we should apply different standards to ourselves in terms of global warming than other countries such as China."

Nuclear energy has two main benefits: it does not emit greenhouse gases and it can be used to produce a great amount of energy. The drawbacks are plentiful. It is expensive; mining and processing uranium is costly, as is the building and operation of the power plants. The average lead time for building a nuclear power is ten years. Though nuclear fission does not release harmful greenhouse gases, the nuclear cycle does produce radioactive waste byproducts that need to be stored for thousands of years. Nuclear power plants also require immense amounts of water to cool the reactors and the industry suffers from a not in my backyard syndrome. Uranium itself is a non-renewable resource whose production is finite and subject to peak theory. In this sense, nuclear is at best a bridge technology, one that buys us time while we figure out and deploy other technologies. Lastly, nuclear power only generates electricity. Thus, it cannot solve all of our energy needs alone though if we concurrently reorient our transportation system off hydrocarbons and onto the electrical grid, nuclear might have a substantial impact in curbing greenhouse gases.

World-wide, nuclear power accounts for 16 percent of electricity. In the United States, nuclear energy provides 19 percent of our electrical needs though the last US nuclear plant was begun in the 1970s and completed in 1996. In the European Union, about a third of all electricity is from nuclear. The most reliant on nuclear energy is France which derives a whopping 78 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. China currently has plans to build more than a 100 nuclear plants.

There's more...

Greenwald Wrong; Major Victory for Iran

Since it looks like the Greenwalds and others have decided to pretend the U.S. wrung major concessions from Iran, I'll post some reality-based corrective here, which a few minutes ago was a couple of comments at pffugeecamp.com:

It was a major victory for Iran

Russia and China stuck up for Iran on the playground. For Russia, making Iran more dependent on it is very helpful to its 'oil and gas politics' Great Game strategy. China simply depends on Iran way too much for energy supplies, and can't go along with crippling sanctions.

Greenwald and his linkee are laughably wrong that Iran promised to allow inspection of the new facility as a result of negotiations. Everyone in Iran was already stating that willingness from the moment they announced existence of that facility. So the media Obamanauts are getting away with a big lie there.

The main thing is, Iran was not even asked to stop making 5% enriched uranium. So they are celebrating:

5+1 group didn't ask Iran to suspend enrichment: Jalili
Tehran Times Political Desk
Sunday, October 4, 2009

TEHRAN - Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, has said that in the Geneva talks on Thursday, the 5+1 group did not raise the issue of uranium enrichment suspension, as has been demanded by the recent United Nations Security Council resolutions.

"The 5+1 group did not mention the suspension of uranium enrichment in our country at all," he told reporters at Imam Khomeini airport on Friday upon his arrival from Geneva, Switzerland.

Iran has (supposedly, there is some disagreement) agreed to send out a big chunk of their existing supply to Russia in order to make it 10% enriched, which makes it suitable for nuclear medicine whatever that is. The point for Iran is that making that concession is a sideshow, no one challenged their right to go ahead with 5% enrichment from now on without sanctions. I'm not sure if setting up the 10% in Russia is even a concession, since Iran right now and for the foreseeable future may not be capable of enriching uranium to the 10% level.

by: fairleft @ Sun Oct 04, 2009 at 08:46:35 AM EDT

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Sorry Israel, no Iran war & crippling sanctions 4U

I've said a few times in comments recently that I'm pretty optimistic, from my antiwar and similar perspective, on the Iran and sanctions issue. The reasons are various, but centered on the analysis of India career diplomat M K Bhadrakumar, who also believes the sanctions effort will fail. More on those ideas a couple paragraphs down.

As for my perspective, first of all, not that it's stopped the U.S. before but there is pretty much zero justification for U.S. saber-rattling, as indicated by the mundane headlines (i.e., Iran vows to stick with low-level nuclear enrichment) only two days after the three imperials (Obama, Sarkozy, Brown) news conference about a 'secret' low-grade nuclear 'facility' that was neither secret nor a facility, since it won't be a functioning one till construction ends 18 months from now. This is weak soup for crippling sanctions, naval blockades, and worse. Today, even weaker stuff, 'IRAN TESTS (short-range) MISSILES! Oh my gawd y-a-w-n, weak stuff for scaring us up and dealing death.

Secondly, and Bhadrakumar's analysis is critical here, despite Beltway pundits fishing for wish fulfillment, both China (emphatically) and Russia oppose sanctions on Iran. And this time the U.S. needs international cover, imho, or its 'X must prove it doesn't have WMD' campaign (Hillary Clinton) won't have the outcome (severe sanctions and an attack on Iran's nuclear power facilities) desired by the U.S. & Israeli military-industrial complexes.

Bhadrakumar makes three major points in Moscow holds the line on Iran sanctions:

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