In two and a half hours of testimony before a near-idolizing Senate hearing, Al Gore said very little. He profusely thanked Republicans and Democrats alike, and answered every question in the same condescending drone -- even as he told the world he didn't understand "trigonometry" and "calculus" and complicated mathematical things like that.
All of a sudden, about an hour into the proceedings, he was peppered by Republicans blaming him for legislation leading to the demise of nuclear power in America, and demanding to know if he supports nuclear energy OR NOT.
Al Gore was ready.
He states the he "assumes" that we will "solve the waste problem."
He feels that we'll solve the problem of operator errors. We're not Russia so we could never make the same mistakes THEY made at Chernobyl.
He laments that nuclear power plants "only come in large." He looks forward to the next generation of nuclear power plants, which (he feels) will solve all the problems of the previous three generations.
He's "less sure than he once was" about the usefulness of nuclear power. "So I think it will play a small role in some areas, I don't think it will be a big part" he says again.
"The waste problem may be solved" he reiterates hopefully. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) admits "Yeah, we still have problems ... waste management..." He did not identify any other problems. Chairperson Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) told Al Gore: "I'll give you 60 seconds to respond to that speech about nuclear energy [by Senator Larry Craig]."
Gore used his minute to reiterate that he DIDN'T say nuclear power "wasn't a factor" in his proposed solution to the problem of global warming.
Numerous speakers on both sides of the aisle kept saying nukes are clean, often immediately explaining that they mean they don't release significant amounts of CO2 during operation. No one talked about fission products. No one talked about the energy-intensive "nuclear fuel cycle," let alone, the threat from terrorism at every step. No one talked about cancer. No one talked about how much water nuclear power plants use, which would conflict with other uses in a global-warming-induced global water shortage.
No one even talked about renewable energy much. Al Gore stated -- correctly, I believe -- that small-scale energy producers need to be able to sell electricity to the grid. But his main solution to the problem of global warming -- aside from "conservation" (aka "energy efficiency") and the "small" role nuclear power will play was: Clean coal.
Whatever THAT is!
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he had been thinking about these issues for "about three years" and tells Al Gore: "I hope you'll think about nuclear more." Senator Alexander claimed that the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) was about to complete a new nuclear power plant "on time and under budget." In fact, Watts Bar Unit II has been "approved for construction" to begin again this year. The original construction project was stopped in 1988. The plant is far from completed, and already 20 years behind schedule! It undoubtedly will cost far more than the original estimates, so its unclear to this writer what failure Senator Alexander is misrepresenting as a victory.
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