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tv   White House Chronicles  WHUT  October 17, 2010 10:30am-11:00am EDT

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>> help. -- hello. i'm llewellyn king, host of "white house chronicle," which is coming right up, but first, a few thoughts of my own. people love bridges. i always think the bridges pose
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an intrusion for good reason into the environment. there are things we do that work very well that alter the environment. in washington, we have a path along the potomac going back to the old days. it is the enormously popular. people job, bicycle, did everything along this canal. if you tried to build it today, there would be an enormous environmental outpouring against it, and he he tried to remove it, there would be an enormous help warring against it, so as the world gets more crowded, complicated, as we worry more about the environment, i think it is time for us to think about what we do that is a kind of instructive -- constructive intrusion that changes things but not for the worse. i feel that way about dams.
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they change things, but they produce electricity. there is change, but change is not necessarily bad. it does not necessarily mean desecration, but i think we should decide what it is that leaves a good impact often, that is a big rather than small thing. a lot of small things, lovely in themselves, are not so lovely en masse. roads are like that. shopping centers. all of this feeding over of america. a piece of old america, borgias in its way, burned down. now, we are used to seeing fields with town houses in them. there was a special agriculture building in fields that where agricultural. we are going to have to think a
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lot more about what we do to the environment. we cannot pretend we do not have to do it. we have to do things to accommodate the growing populations of the earth. doing the right thing -- that is the test. paving it over. even covering it with small powered devices may not be a solution. in light big machines. in light big structures. in love skyscrapers. the intrusions into the sky, up from the earth, some house symbolizing the best of achievements -- somehow symbolizing the best of achievements. we're talking about nuclear power with someone who knows a great deal about it. i'm not sure you will necessarily agree, but i know you will find it extremely interesting, and we will be right back with that conversation. "> ♪ -- "white house chronicle
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is produced in collaboration with whut, howard university television. now, the program host, nationally syndicated columnist, llewellyn king, and co-host, linda gasparello. >> hello again, and thank you so much for coming along. i promised you a special guest, then here is marvin fertel of the nuclear energy institute, devoted to developing civilian nuclear power for mankind, and along the way, other things -- medicines, all of the peripherals, which may be even more important than the central power generation. you being ceo and president of the organization. do you feel any different having seen it from the top then you did when you were a soldier in the ranks? >> a bit in that one of the
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things i found was -- well, the money is better. i'm not sure my time allotment is any better, but the money is better. one of the things i find i do a lot more in this job is deal with our friends in congress and the administration as opposed to my friends in the industry, and that is a change for me. it is probably a good change. >> where do we stand in the civilian nuclear power races? france is that 80%. japan is growing. south korea is growing. now, i hear china is where no one has ever been in this fashion to build. >> the corporation has made a commitment to build. >> i hear they have 24 under construction as we speak. >> they do, and some of them are our design from westinghouse.
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but for your question, as you said when you introduce me, i'm very proud of our program here we get 20% of our electricity in america from nuclear. franz gets much more. japan even gets more than us, but our program is bigger than japan and france combined. >> we are building one new nuclear -- >> two. one in georgia and one in south carolina. >> that is not 24 like china. very modest. >> we were hurt by recession on the demand for electricity. to be honest, in our country, it is difficult to build anything anywhere. you talk about skyscrapers and bridges. it is hard to do those in most places even. all the studies everybody has done looking at crime legislation and energy legislation says if you want and 80% reduction in carbon
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emissions by 2015, you have to greatly expand nuclear. >> is there not in tendency in what you just said -- you are going to expand efficiency, renewals, etc. -- does that not in some way detract from a simple message? for years, people have not been able to say this is better than coal because the utilities burn coal and now natural gas. >> i think we play different roles. nuclear strength as we operate 24/7, 365 days a year with a lot of electricity. renewals are intermittent. they do play a role on the grid, and they clearly have a lot of support. i think what we are going to
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build in the near term is the nuclear plants we have going, and we are going to see a lot of gas. >> we should explain gas. natural gas is very cheap these days, and there is a machine that came along in the last 20 years, which is a jet engine on the ground that achieves the enormous efficiencies, and about half the emissions of coal plant, so technology has sort of sideswipe you there. >> both on the production of natural gas and on the machine. >> you could invariably put one under this building. >> a more honest feeling and i think the feeling of the companies is that has changed how fast some plants grow in the near term but has not changed the long-term goal look. what hurts in the near term is what you said about china, which is true. it is hard for us to rebuild our manufacturing structure if we are not building our structure.
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>> we are going to face some of would minutes ahead. for example, the day that some country other than us has men on the moon. that is going to be a terrible day in america. a sense that we have lost our way. we do not have what we used to have. what happened? if we suddenly see the whole world for the emerging world, competitive world -- it is not emerging anymore. china, india, to a lesser extent south korea, japan, the competitive world is running ahead of us. we're going to ask why we did not do these things, and it is very hard probably to explain. why, for example, is it that we have the nuclear navy second to none on birth with wonderful
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aircraft carriers, submarines, etc. -- why can we not transfer our enthusiasm for that to making electricity? >> i think that is a good question. one of the reasons is that the public and policymakers actually understand what the nuclear navy does. it provides national security. i do not think the public in general appreciates the value of security. we have done focus groups and asked where electricity comes from, and the two most dominant answers are "the switch" and "the outlet." in my mind, electricity is the lifeblood of the economy and critical for the quality of life. >> every minute of every day, we are surrounded with some electric appliance who need us,
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entertaining us, all of the great resolution. >> your comment about the conundrum on nuclear because our companies also use coal and gas and of the things -- needed advertising a number of years back, and the concern was we talked about how environmentally friendly nuclear is, and the companies were concerned that would hurt coal. we did some testing and found that it did not hurt coal because people did not even appreciate would produce electricity with coal. one of the differences between nuclear navy and nuclear power plants right now is not a safety issue for a valuation. it is an appreciation of the value by the public, and that is something we are working on. >> i would like to take a moment for station identification. this is a station on the potus network, sirius channels 110 and 180. i am talking with marvin fertel,
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president of the nuclear energy institute. audio for this program can be heard every saturday at 9:30 on sirius/xm radio. one of nuclear plants so expensive to build, and how did they become so expensive? what can be done about it? >> when you are talking expensive, the cap will portion has always been more than coal plants or gas plants. i think coal plants are going to end up costing almost as much once you do with clean coal and carbon sequestration, but the reason our plans are so expensive is you have a lot of redundancy. >> is clean coal and oxymoron? >> i think clean coal is a real challenge. i think that is a real hard, a technical challenge. on the other hand, we need to have " as for a bonus for a long
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time, and i think nuclear will overtake it over the longer term, to be honest with you. >> after three mile island, the non-technical people were very disturbed. there was a campaign that said they had everything under control. then, three mile island happened. it was a very serious accident, although the systems mostly worked except for the human systems. how did that come about, and how can we be injured today that that will not be repeated? the panic was extraordinary. people called me up and asked if they should move to florida. >> it is a hard way to learn a lesson. when i graduated college, which was before tmi, there was a lot
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of technical arrogance in our industry. the systems worked well protecting public health and safety, but we never paid a lot of attention to the operational aspects of humans. tmi was a real eye opener, and it changed everything. our off raiders were in simulators every six weeks. we are in simulators more than airline pilots. >> how do you keep people fresh when nothing is going wrong? this is a big problem on trans- atlantic flights. a lot of work from flights to london and australia where the put the plane on automatic pilot and when they finished discussing the crew, they finished -- they fall asleep. >> we do not have the problem. the funny thing we have is boredom. it is what we like for our officers, but they are actually always doing something. they are reviewing procedures, checking gauges.
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what they do not get to do, which is what we do not want them to have to do, is deal with some really bad situations. >> what about the talent? are you getting the engineering talent in the industry? in the 1960's, nuclear was as hot as computers later became. every engineering student wanted to be in nuclear. it was the new frontier. it was enormously exciting. it was the future and suddenly became something else. >> that has been a challenge where you have seen a turnaround over the last 15 years. we have doubled the number of engineering schools that produce nuclear engineers in our country. since 2002, we have almost doubled the number of students graduating each year. the nuclear navy has always been a pipeline of talent coming into our industry, and one of the things that is nice about nuclear is we pay very high salaries.
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two, we have a job, so we are seeing a lot of turnover. we are seeing a load of fresh people coming in. i have the pleasure of dealing with a lot of young people coming in, and it is invigorating to sit there and deal with a bunch of 20 somethings who are really enthusiastic. >> you mentioned westinghouse. even general electric is in a partnership with japan. the big competitor is in france. >> i think what we have seen is the global nature of the nuclear supplies system has basically become really building two plants that we have going right now in georgia, south carolina. that is fundamentally being done
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in america by americans, so we do have an indigenous program going, but you are right -- it is a very global infrastructure right now, and need to grow hours. >> one of the things we hear about when talking about electricity these days is the smart grid. coming out of the west to save the electric utility industry. its analysis of consumption, and for some people, it is a spy in the kitchen, knowing who you take a shower and navy who you take it with. how do you feel about the smart brit? the basic supply of electricity, it does not go up and down very well. >> it does not have a dramatic effect on nuclear. i think what you said about these margaret or the characteristics of it, what the companies find is it helps them
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know about usage. where it is helping is when you have an outage, now you can have this marked with tell you where the problem is, but the smarter we make the grade, the more susceptible it is other challenges. there is a challenge technically that need to really pay attention to. >> do you see a time when we've returned to the acceptance of nuclear and the inevitable? do you think that it will go back to the 1960's? there is a tiny utility on the del mar of a peninsula. they ordered 12 reactors. luckily, they never got built. but the difference is exuberance, this enthusiasm, this great sense that there was a wonderful new way to deliver and it got lost. we still have that feeling
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about computers, but we do not have that about engineering. >> i think it will not be like the 1960's, but i think it will be much better than it has been here we have 17 applications for 22 reactors being reviewed. >> one of the things that is very appealing is that the plants are quite pretty. they are not too intrusive. take a look at this, if we can find it. there we are, look at that. when everybody sees that big a cooling tower, you think that is part of nuclear, but it really is not. why don't we just use rivers and streams and get rid of the ugly things? >> actually, the epa may be trying to get people to use them where we do not need them. a cool and convince the water. it has nothing to do with nuclear. -- they cool and convinced the water.
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>> other wise it has nothing to do with nuclear. it is a masterpiece of industrial design, beautifully hidden. if you get up close, it looks like a concert hall, and a cooling tower, if you pay enormous attention, i wonder if we really need them. >> when you put it in, we have done it for several pollution reasons, water conservation. right now, the problem is we may see them being forced into places where they do not belong. i think your comment on the plants and public support -- we try to get as many members of the public policy makers to endorse it because you not only find them attractive on the outside, but they are immaculate on the inside. most important, we get to talk to the people who work there. we understand how professional and capable they really are. >> there is some opposition to
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the cooling tower, and i'm surprised it has lasted more than 40 years. it basically says that anything that is nuclear -- is the industry ever going to overcome this? >> i think that we have a dedicated group of anti-nuclear group. i think one thing is they are in business to close nuclear. that is how they raise their money. i think the general public is actually pretty supportive. policy-makers in states and even in congress are very supportive. we have had a lot of dialogue with environmental groups who are very supportive of nuclear. i think we are seeing the movement going and the right
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way. >> tell me about this work force. >> we have a young gen nuclear group, on the order of hundreds to thousands now that are growing in our industry. in fact, this week, i had a very interesting experience. we had about nine of these people in our office. basically, they volunteered to be in his clean energy program, go out and talk to people about nuclear energy and energy in general, and i sat down and talk with them. you mentioned tmi. when you ask these people about what it means, it is too much information. it is not three mile island. but in the 20's or 30's, you bring up tmi, and people say, "too much information." they are also interested in doing things to produce
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electricity -- we pay tribute to some of these people inside the plant. there they are. there we are inside the plant, and the is the place where chips are manufactured. what is that like? on the subject to a lot of radiation? >> that are not subject to any radiation levels except going to contain it. i took a group down there about two months ago. >> that is in virginia. >> at lunch, we invited about seven of their young jan folks to join us for lunch, and their enthusiasm for what they did -- i had the former secretary of interior with me, and a couple of other senior people, and they
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just enjoyed talking to these young people immensely. >> tell me, brian this nuclear world, how do they deal with the constant rejection? -- in this nuclear world, how do they deal with constant rejection? >> it is funny you say that. i spent most of last year on the hill because of the climate and energy legislation, and walking into senator after senator, i would come in and talk about nuclear stuff, and they would say, "nuclear is not our problem. our problem is climate change issues with coal plants, cat and trade and how we do it or do not do a -- cap and trade, and how we do it or do not do it." we are not actually running into
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this staunch opposition from policymakers. >> tell me about the president, the mixed signals. the scientific evidence, and the very helpful harry reid in the .enate' what do you make of obama going in both directions? >> i think the president, when he was running, was very clear, which was your basic payment to go into nevada, and i think that he fulfilled his pledge on that when he became president. we were not sure how supportive he would be because when he was campaigning, he continued to say all the right stuff -- "i want
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nuclear, but it has to be safe, economic." >> the other countries like china, what are they going to do with their waist? make it into toys and send it to us? >> they will do probably what we end up doing, look for some form of recycling. >> that is when you take these huge bundles of stuff and clean them up with assets and take the good parts out to be reused, and what you throw away is of no consequence. >> that would take the next step and put it into what we call fast reactors. >> the idea that you can burn it eventually. people are not very enthusiastic about it. but before you burn it in a reactor, what happens if you just turn it into a glass brick. how long does the last?
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>> we are putting stuff in what is called the waste isolation pilot project, and it is going to stay there forever, millions of years. >> everything we do is going to stay for some hundreds of thousands of years. i would like to put it hitch in for concrete. the colosseum in rome is built of concrete and still standing remarkably well. concrete was invented in egypt, and they found if you use volcanic sand, it acted extraordinarily. what do you do, in 30 seconds, when you are not working? >> i tried to read stuff, play some tennis. i got married just a few weeks ago. >> congratulations.
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you can view this program and the ones that preceded it and read some of my scribblings at that address. we will see you next week. all the best, cheers. captioned by the national captioning institute >> "white house chronicle" is produced in collaboration with whut, howard university of television. this has been "white house chronicle," a weekly analysis of the news with insight and a
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sense of humor, featuring llewellyn, gasparello, and guests. if this program may be seen on guests. if this program may be seen on cable