Whether strategic confirmation maneuvering or just a candid expression of energy realism, Stephen Chu had some encouraging words on coal and nuclear power during yesterday’s confirmation hearing:
While the senators present endorsed Chu’s enthusiasm for developing new energy technologies, many emphasized the need to put funds toward readily available energy sources like nuclear power.
“Isn’t it important we accelerate this proven source of clean energy?” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Al.) asked with respect to nuclear power.
“I’m supportive of the fact that the nuclear industry should be part of the mix,” Chu said.
He said federal loan guarantee programs should be used to jump-start the nuclear industry while the nation develops a long-term plan for safe disposal of waste and researches ways to recycle waste in an economically viable and safe manner.
“The recycling issue is something we don’t need a solution for today, or even 10 years from today,” Chu said. “It’s like coal — one doesn’t have a hard moratorium on that while we search for ways to capture carbon safely.”
Chu said the United States, India, China, and Russia will not turn their backs to coal, so it is critical to find ways to use it as cleanly as possible, a sentiment many senators agreed with.
Given that coal and nuclear power generate 68 percent of our country’s electricity — and that current technology and economics don’t allow for the replacement of fossil fuels while still delivering reliable, affordable power — let’s hope Chu meant what he said.