Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in Idaho

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has never hidden his support for nuclear energy. In 2011, before he took up his current post, he wrote an article for Foreign Affairs surveying the nuclear landscape, finding some sump holes and crevices (as well as gold-infused hillocks and verdant valleys), and concluded:

As greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, finding ways to generate power cleanly, affordably, and reliably is becoming an even more pressing imperative. Nuclear power is not a silver bullet, but it is a partial solution that has proved workable on a large scale. … The government's role should be to help provide the private sector with a well-understood set of options, including nuclear power -- not to prescribe a desired market share for any specific technology.

And:

The United States must take a number of decisions to maintain and advance the option of nuclear energy.

As energy secretary, he has embraced President Barack Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy – it features in his Foreign Affairs piece, too – so his specific interest in nuclear energy has been less apparent if never absent.

Now it’s apparent again:

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz championed the use of nuclear power and urged politicians and leaders in the energy industry to adapt and modernize energy production to help minimize the fallout from global warming.

And for the same reason as in the article: because it’s a bulwark against climate change. He was speaking in Idaho with three of the state’s Congressional delegation present, so his words have some significance:

"The predictions of a world where we do nothing predict unhealthy outcomes for our forests," Moniz said. "Working hard on it means innovating energy technology. And I want to emphasize, the goal of energy is very simple, keep the costs down. As we have seen, that will make the policy making easier."

I hesitated a bit on this story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch because Moniz isn’t quoted directly about nuclear energy. He was speaking at The Intermountain Energy Summit, with the Idaho National Laboratory providing a nice backdrop for nuclear-specific comments.

Moniz said the U.S. Department of Energy would award $67 million for nuclear research and development to universities and labs across the country. Idaho will receive $3.7 million for six projects at the Idaho National Laboratory, Boise State University and Idaho State University.

But everything is of a piece. Moniz said a few things about small reactors in his 2011 piece and again in Idaho:

Small modular reactors could possibly ease critics' fears that nuclear energy costs too much to be efficient, Moniz said, but many of these are in the early stages of construction so information on long-term operation costs are minimal.

If nothing else – actually, there’s a lot else - this story demonstrates that nuclear energy remains as it has been, a strong element in the administration’s energy policy.

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Here’s the breakdown of the $67 million DOE dispersed, from ExecutiveGov (it’s about a million short, but what’s a few dollars?):

  • $30 million for 44 university-led nuclear energy R&D projects;
  • $4 million for 19 research reactor and infrastructure improvement projects;
  • $20 million for five integrated research projects;
  • $11 million for 12 R&D projects by DOE national laboratories, industry and U.S. universities; and
  • $1 million for two infrastructure enhancement projects.

  • 2 comments:

    trag said...

    Moniz is all talk and no real support for nuclear. The money dispersed is pennies compared to what's been showered on unworkable solar and wind schemes.

    One need look no further than him appointing a UCS wonk as his chief of staff to know that at heart, he's anti-nuclear. A pro nuclear secretary would be taking real action and recommending real movement that would get dozens of reactors built, not a handful. Furthermore, he'd be knocking on Obama's door begging him not to appoint the proposed political weasels to the NRC board.

    Anonymous said...

    Either Dr. Moniz misspoke or--more likely--he was misquoted by a reporter who knows little about nuclear power. There are no small modular reactors in the early stages of construction--at least, not in the US--and they are unlikely to reach that state for at least another 5-10 years (if then). The designs still have to undergo NRC review, and someone has to apply for a license to build one, which has not happened yet.