Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R) is leading the push for an energy-independent America through reactors using thorium, a natural resource found in abundance domestically that produces both clean and safe energy. He called for an end to the destruction of the country’s stockpile and warned against Chinese progress in the technology that was given to them, as well as unrealistic “green” ambitions of Democrats, while highlighting the “huge national security risk” of energy dependency.
Speaking with Breitbart News, U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2020 and is currently serving as a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee (SASC), began by discussing the initial attacks on carbon-rich fossil fuel energy after his election to office in 2021.
“When I first was sworn in in January of last year, we immediately started seeing an attack on fossil fuels and the energy that we have the availability of [producing] here in the United States,” he said. “But everything went towards green and that was the [Biden administration’s] prerogative: solar, wind, EV cars, etc.”
Alternative Energy Source
Having introduced the Thorium Energy Security Act that calls to “provide for the preservation and storage of uranium-233 (thorium) to foster development of thorium molten-salt reactors,” Tuberville plans to utilize the natural resource thorium, a fissile isotope bred from the naturally-occurring thorium metal, already possessed by the United States in abundance.
During a recent SASC hearing, Tuberville drew attention to the potential use of thorium as he cited a 2008 report by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Inspector General, calling U-233 an “irreplaceable” resource and urging the department to “explore alternatives” in order to ensure a “stable domestic supply.”
Nuclear physicist Alvin Weinberg was also cited by the senator as having referred to breeder nuclear reactors as “only a little less important than the discovery of fission,” the process by which energy is generated.
The Thorium Energy Alliance estimates the U.S. alone has enough thorium to power the country at its current energy level for over a millennium.
Through it, the country can both produce clean energy and break down nuclear waste.
“We have a use for it, yet we just — for some reason — are holding back and not using that technology we came up with,” Tuberville said.
Claiming to offer a viable “alternative,” Tuberville, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated he was attempting to “help cut back a little bit — if that’s what they want to do.”
“We have got to find some way to power this country because if we don’t it’s going to be a huge national security risk,” he warned.
Calling on the U.S. to build Thorium powered reactors “in every county in the country to fuel the nation’s energy needs,” Tuberville maintained that “if we’re going to do away with fossil fuels, we have got to find an alternative way — we have no choice.”
Describing how solar and wind sources can only produce “five or, at most, ten percent of our energy,” the Republican from Alabama said he would be open to all sorts of alternatives — even not through uranium 233.
“I’d be fine with that, but nobody’s got an answer,” he said.
“The answer is clean, safe energy that we have the technology for,” he added. “We can mine our own thorium; we don’t have to go to China or Russia. We can be self-sufficient.”
He also stressed the safety associated with thorium reactors which cannot melt down and are capable of consuming nuclear waste, eliminating the two most pressing dilemmas facing nuclear power.
“The dangerous part of nuclear reactors that we used to build obviously was a meltdown of the reactors, of the energy, and getting exposed to the environment,” he said. “Well that doesn’t happen with thorium [molten] salt reactors.”
“They’re very safe and that’s the reason that we should be able to sell this to the Democrats and to their game plan in terms of going to green energy,” he added.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, since such reactors operate at lower pressures, it results in enhanced safety.
The senator insisted he would “keep pounding the wall until somebody listens to us — Republicans and Democrats — and try to save as much uranium as we possibly can.”
However, a problem he encountered was that there was no “game plan,” and current proposed solutions, such as the Democratic push to transition to “green” energy, are unrealistic.
“I’m used to dealing with game plans and organization, having an answer for the American taxpayer, the citizens of this country,” the former famed college football coach-turned-senator said. “If we think we’re going to solve all our problems with wind and solar, we’re going to have huge problems in the future and that can’t happen.”
“I was just shocked that there was no game plan,” he added. “The game plan was to do away with everything — fossil fuels — cold.”
Recalling former Secretary of State John Kerry’s goal of being “totally off of natural gas” within a decade, the senator ridiculed the proposal.
“Has he lost his mind?” he asked. “I mean it’s impossible to do that. Absolutely impossible.”
Tuberville warned of unrealistic Democrat ambitions given that the economy currently runs on fossil fuels.
“You can’t run a country with an economy our size with a plan for the future without energy,” he said. “You can’t do it — you can’t do it without fossil fuels.”
“Democrats think they can do it all they want, yet a lot of things that we use — not just energy — it’s in foods, it’s in clothing,” he added. “Half of your cars are made of a fossil fuel out of petroleum, you know your plastics and all that. So our economy runs on that.”
With Democrats seeking to “do away with coal” and other fossil fuels, Tuberville claimed the only viable alternative he could imagine was to “sell the Democrats on the point that if nuclear energy is going to be the future for a lot of other countries, why not us?”
“So we started looking into the availability of nuclear [power],” he said. “We’ve got five nuclear plants in Alabama with a third of the state’s power coming from nuclear and it’s clean.”
Nuclear power provides over half of America’s clean energy and is regarded as the country’s most reliable energy source, the DOE reported last year.
As of 2020 nearly 80 percent of uranium used by United States nuclear power plants is imported from foreign countries, including Russia — which provides 16 percent of the supply, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Tuberville noted that a key advantage of the clean and safe nuclear energy source is that it serves as a valuable “selling point” with Democrats who are “looking for an opportunity for clean energy and getting away from fossil fuels.”
“So we started looking into thorium, which was invented many years ago because of the emergence of a nuclear bomb, but you can’t make a nuclear bomb out of it, so there was no use at that time for it,” he said.
“However,” he noted, “it can fuel a nuclear reactor.”
Calling attention to the lost opportunity, Tuberville lamented that “we had all this technology that we just put in a drawer and closed the drawer.”
“We had all this fuel that we had made from thorium, which was uranium 233, and it’s worth billions of dollars, but we decided not to use the technology nor the uranium 233,” he said.
He also described the history of the fuel’s production, leading to former President George W. Bush’s deciding to “start doing away” with the supplies of the fissile isotope as part of a “Defense Environmental Cleanup” program.
“We have, I believe, spent over $650 million to destroy something worth billions of dollars that other countries are trying to make [use] out of thorium,” he said.
First used in nuclear experiments following World War II, scientists lost interest in U-233 despite its potential as an energy source after it was discovered that it could not aid in the production of nuclear weapons.
However, as a result of the initial research, the United States amassed the largest known stockpile of the separated isotopes, though the George W. Bush administration saw little use for its continued storage and ordered its elimination.
Noting that the U.S. spends “approximately $50 million a year on destroying U-233,” Tuberville explained that “there’s a certain amount of money every year that’s been appropriated to continue to destroy it.”
“People should be reaching out and saying, ‘How do we do this? Why don’t we do this?’” he said. “‘Instead of spending money to destroy it, how do we make more of it?’”
In total, the DOE will have spent roughly $1 billion to complete the elimination of the isotope supply by the end of 2025.
Asked why it appeared so difficult to get Democrats on board given that the energy source is clean and safe, Tuberville claimed it was a “lack of knowledge and, really, interest.”
“Their big deal right now is wind and solar, and the problem with that is the lithium that we’re going to have to use in all these batteries — most of it comes from China,” he said. “Most of the chemicals that you put into the building of the solar panels come from China.”
“We’re selling ourselves to China even more and more, but there’s not many days that go by that I’m not trying to sell it to the Democrats and the Republican side,” he added.
Another barrier he noted was terminology.
“The problem is when you put ‘nuclear’ at the beginning of your conversation, uneducated people think ‘nuclear’ has to do with the plutonium that was used in the ones that we have now,” he said, noting that the two are “totally different.”
“These reactors are like 20-25 percent of the cost of these plutonium reactors — it’s so much cheaper and 100 percent safe,” he added. “They can be built in such a short period of time.”
Admitting that some Republicans also needed to be brought aboard, the senator argued that the Democrats “should be more on top of this than even the Republicans because it is clean energy.”
“But unfortunately it’s got ‘nuclear’ in front of it and that has scared a lot of people in our lifetime,” he said. “They think the worst when it comes to that.”
Tuberville then called attention to China’s interest in uranium 233, with Beijing having produced its first U-233-powered reactor, which it began testing last year.
“It looks like China will even be using [such a reactor] on their new aircraft carriers, so they’re taking this technology and they’re running with it, and that’s what China does: they take what they can get, what they can steal, what somebody gives them, and then they run with it,” he said.
“So they’re taking it, working with it, and they see it as an alternative to the massive amount of coal-fired plants that they have in their country,” he added. “Plus, it’s an opportunity for them to get into other countries and hold their feet to the fire in terms of controlling other countries’ energy.”
Reiterating his calls for a viable alternative, Tuberville insisted, “We can’t just keep running into the wall with wind and solar and the use of lithium batteries that absolutely we’ll be buying a majority of from China.”
“Like everything else, China is doing it,” he said. “So, we’re giving them the opportunities and they didn’t pay for this.”
He then panned former President Barack Obama and his administration for having just “given them the game plan” and technology “because he wanted China to get away from their coal plants,” leading the communist state to utilize and develop it.
“His thought was, ‘Let’s give them this technology that we’ve come up with — thorium — and maybe entice them into doing nuclear reactors out of thorium and uranium 233,” he said. “Well, they took the technology and they’re running with it.”
“Last September, they opened their first plant of the thorium salt reactors and it looks like that in the future their plans are to use it on their One Belt One Road initiative,” he added, referring to the global infrastructure and commerce effort adopted by the Chinese government to invest in dozens of countries and international groups as it aims to dominate crucial trade routes.
In 2011, under the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) signed an agreement with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) — sharing information on U-233 processing in order to push China toward clean energy.
The Alabama senator said the Chinese would be installing the reactors based on our technology in other countries too, due to it being “clean and safe.”
He then warned of the current consequences if Russia were to decide to no longer send gas or oil to Europe.
“This world is a big hurt,” he said. “We’re going to have to start doing something in terms of helping the other countries, either drilling for oil [or] gas and sending it to them because they’ve got to survive and their economy is way up in the air right now.”
“[Europeans] do not have enough energy to get by,” he added. “That’s the reason Germany is going back to their closed down nuclear plants.”
He also discussed the opportunity for the U.S. to be a leader in selling energy to the Europeans.
“We need to be saying, ‘We’ve got the answer for you,’ and this way they won’t have to be reliant on Russian gas and oil, on the pipelines,” he said.
“There’s got to be some kind of game plan. If we don’t do something then we’re going to be facing this same problem year in and year out — not just here in this country but all over the world,” he added.
In addition, he claimed, the “low grade uranium” that would be received from Russia “is totally different from this.”
“As I said,” he added, “we have thorium in this country — we wouldn’t have to use any of theirs.”
Though, he admitted, “we’d have it in terms of running the nuclear plants we have right now,” he also stressed “there’s no time to waste.”
“We have got to start now,” he said. “You don’t just put them up like a McDonald’s on every corner. You’ve got to have a plan.”
Claiming that “every war is started over energy,” Tuberville said “we don’t need to be involved in that.”
“Just like Ukrainians,” he said. “Ukraine’s got their problems over there now — it’s all because of energy.”
Touting his progress to date, the Republican senator noted that he had spoken with many others on the subject, including fellow colleagues, and has been working with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia who is chairman of the Energy Committee.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations with him on this,” he said.
In addition, Tuberville managed to “get into the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] a requirement that the DoD [Department of Defense] has to study the use of thorium technology,” something he described as “huge.”
“So they’re going to be required to do that,” he said.
Tuberville also boasted of having introduced the Thorium Energy Security Act.
Though he claimed it “won’t make it to the floor unless we get Joe Manchin to sell it on his side,” the senator said “it’s just something that makes common sense with what we’re doing now with cutting back on fossil fuels.”
Calling for the need to seek a means to attain “clean, safe, cheaper energy and not be able to have our power grid shut down in cold winters and hot summers,” Tuberville warned that such a scenario is a “possibility” that may likely happen in the near future.
“It’s an alternative that we should be using and saving instead of destroying,” he said, noting that the isotope also functions as a “medical isotope that is used against cancer.”
“So, there’s other things that it’s used for, but we’re spending millions and millions of dollars every year to destroy it when we should be doing everything we possibly can to keep it and use it for our own use,” he added.
Tuberville concluded by outlining the necessary actions to make his proposals a reality.
“First, we have got to try to save our uranium 233 and quit destroying it,” he said. “That’s the first step. We’ve got to stop the destruction of it.”
Next, he said, it is necessary to “get people talking about it.”
“With the DoD now looking into and studying thorium technology, we’re going to give them enough money to [the point] where they go out and do their due diligence,” he said. “And then hopefully we can get somebody to listen.”
“I think then, we’ll have enough to go out and sell it more and more,” he added.
Highlighting its additional uses, including its potential “to help cure certain cancers,” Tuberville emphasized the importance of “having a plan.”
“Then look at all your alternatives and the alternative is not wind and solar; we all know that,” he said. “I don’t know how the Democrats are selling that to all the taxpayers across the country, even the hardcore Democrats.”
“Nobody else has shown me another way to make it better and this is our technology; we came up with it and we started it and we won’t do anything with it?” he added. “It’s just absolutely amazing to me how the hill works up here. There’s just no common sense.”
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.