America's just burning to break its oil addiction but can't figure out how. (We’d turn to Sen. James Inhofe, but he declined to comment on this story.) For one thing, there's a lot that Republican lawmakers oppose in the recently passed Boxer-Kerry climate bill, which proposes carbon emission limits and supports clean energy alternatives. However, it occurred to us there's one thing that might just draw the dysfunctional congressional family together - nuclear energy.
In its current form, the proposal contains relatively little nuclear support. But with a number of on-the-fence Republicans being big nuclear proponents - and President Obama hoping for a bill passed before an international climate conference in Copenhagen this winter - critics have floated the option that Obama might lean a little nuclear if it meant getting a bill out of the gate.
There are already other players in the nuclear space. As we covered in an earlier post, Russia is developing floating nuclear generators that make the energy highly accessible - and relatively cheap. South Africa and others have been developing so-called "pebble bed" reactors - with a smaller size and revamped, safer cooling system. No surprise, then, that tech-savvy American companies want in on the action too. For example, Santa Fe-based Hyperion Power Generation is developing hot tub-sized nuclear "power modules" that would cost as little as $25 million and could be on the market by 2013.
But what about the nasty waste? That issue's a bit more dicey. In the face of stark local opposition, the Yucca Mountain project in Nevada is dead in the water - in fact, Yucca funds have reportedly been cut out of the 2011 federal fiscal budget.
However, that doesn't mean Nevada's anti-nuclear power. Last month Jon Hickman, mayor of White Pine County in Nevada which neighbors Yucca, made an announcement that raised some eyebrows. He proposed forming a steering committee to examine - what do you know - the construction of a new nuclear power plant.
- Ivan Weiss