Thursday, February 13, 2014

Billionaire’s Nuclear Dream: House of Cards Returns for Season 2


D.C., rejoice! Season 2 of "House of Cards" is almost here. If you haven’t seen the first season, spend your snow day binge-watching because tomorrow we get the next chapter in this thrilling political drama. The award-winning series—centered on Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood, House Majority Whip and ultimate political schemer—is filled with nuanced characters, excellent performances and unexpected plot twists.

Want an even better reason to watch? Nuclear energy gets some time to shine. Energy is touched upon peripherally throughout the series, and by season's end, the plot hits upon the nation’s energy supply and nuclear’s role in it. For those wanting a quick recap of how nuclear energy ties in during season 1, read on.

[Spoilers ahead] In the penultimate episode, Underwood visits billionaire Raymond Tusk to vet him as a possible replacement for Vice President. Tusk, an influential friend of the President, is a big investor in nuclear power:
Underwood: You think I could get a tour of your Fulton Plant while I’m in town?

Tusk: If you’d like, but I don’t know why you’d want to be there when you can be out here.

Underwood: I’ve never seen a nuclear plant.

Tusk: Not much to see. Steel. Concrete. A lot of steam.

Underwood: The President hasn't exactly been a big supporter of nuclear power. Is that part of your hesitation, the fear that the administration might –

Tusk: He's just being savvy. Nuclear energy is a tough sell after Japan. But it's the only option we have right now that doesn't completely trash the planet. The argument against nuclear power is an emotional one.
[Bigger spoilers ahead] We later find out that Tusk has actually been vetting Underwood for the Vice Presidency during this visit. Tusk offers his stamp of approval provided that Underwood returns “one and only one” favor (one which is quite the anticlimactic reveal given the dark turns this series took before this point, but I digress). Not willing to be controlled, Underwood doesn’t even wait to hear what Tusk wants. He tries to set up a hostile takeover of Tusk's nuclear subsidiaries to distract him and ultimately stop him from becoming the nominee for Vice President.

In the end, Tusk outmaneuvers Underwood in a way that ensures his nuclear investments won’t be touched. He is still willing to back Underwood for Vice President, as long as Underwood uses his influence to secure favorable trade tariffs with China. Why? Tusk needs Samarium-149 for his reactors, and “China controls 95% of the world’s supply.”

Admittedly, the end of the season is where the plot is weakest and starts departing from reality. But what the writers do get right is the influential billionaire investing in nuclear energy and China becoming a major player in the nuclear industry.

Regardless of some flawed logic, this storyline accurately reflects the growing importance of nuclear and its role in a diverse energy mix. Tune in tomorrow to see where it goes in season 2.

Side note: Most of the characters involved in this storyline are motivated by personal gain, but Tusk may truly care about promoting a clean, affordable and reliable energy source for America. He seems at least partly motivated by the fact that nuclear energy won’t destroy the 6,000 acres in his backyard. (That’s correct, 6,000.) Maybe this pro-nuclear billionaire is really being positioned as the good guy. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for his newsboy cap and recitation of Walt Whitman. Guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

2 comments:

jimwg said...

It's funny how a fictional Billionaire's passion about nuclear energy is getting more play and air time than real-life ones (Gates, Paul Allen, etc). When are these guys going to pop up their heads and publicly cheer-lead nuclear? They're NOT going to have a place to site their hoped-for plants if the public is scared of them! I didn't see the series but I hope it ends positively with nukes saving the day instead of another cliche accident to royally soil everyone's day.

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Marcel F. Williams said...

House of Cards is a great show.

I just hope I don't watch them all too quickly this time:-)