Obama's Nuclear Power Initiative (Part 2)

A recent Gallup poll found that show that 59 percent of respondents strongly support nuclear energy, a new high. Most Americans realize that we cannot continue our dependence on foreign oil, and are thus willing to overlook issues surrounding nuclear power, such as plant safety and long-term storage of nuclear waste. In fact, technological breakthroughs are helping ease many of the concerns. The new generation of smaller reactors is considered safer than those built 30 or 50 years ago.. And a company called General Atomics is developing a plant that actually runs on spent fuel, the nuclear waste produced by big reactors.

 One reason Obama is taking such a measured approach to nuclear power is that many of his liberal-progressive supporters, the ones he needs to have any chance of getting re-elected in 2012, have demonstrated at best lukewarm support for Obama’s nuclear initiative. The New York Times stated that Obama’s decisions to go nuclear “makes good sense.” And the Atlantic magazine enumerated “5 Reasons To Cheer Obama's Nuclear Ambitions” Such projects, said the Atlantic, created jobs, were not very costly, and by the way, helped the US prepare for the energy future.


But a quick review of the “comments” sections following such articles demonstrates the depth of progressives’ opposition to the prospect of a nuclear future. Many cited a host of safety and radiation issues linked to nuclear power. Some supporters felt betrayed by Obama’s decision, even swearing to never vote for him again. As one states, “It looks as if virtually none of our leaders, including Obama, have learned ANYTHING from Three Mile Island.”


The environmental lobby which strongly supports Obama has expressed opposition to nuclear power. The Sierra Club believes that nuclear power plants, barring exceptional circumstances, should be dismantled. Greenpeace describes nuclear power as an expensive and dangerous distraction from the real solutions to climate change. The Public Interest Research Group calls Nuclear power “expensive, dangerous, and unnecessary to meet our nation’s energy needs,” and unnecessary in the fight against global warming. The Environmental Defense Fund will not support an expansion of nuclear generating capacity, citing concerns over safety, security, waste and proliferation. In my research I have found only one of these major environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Fund, that seems willing to at least consider the benefits of nuclear power.


To placate these critics, Obama promised to make the technology safer, and emphasized nuclear power’s role in reducing America’s dependence on polluting, carbon-based fuels. Obama said a typical nuclear plant “will cut carbon pollution by 16 million tons each year when compared to a similar coal plant. That's like taking 3.5 million cars off the road."

The President should remind those worried about the “risks” of nuclear power that our growing dependence on oil is far more dangerous. In 1980, the U.S. got 37 percent of its oil from foreign sources. This number rose to 55 percent in 2001 and is headed for 65 percent in 2016. The Mideast is home to between 65 and 70 percent of all known oil reserves. Protecting both foreign oil fields and the energy supply lines that stretch halfway around the globe is costing the US both money and lives. Any interruption in the flow of oil from the Mideast leads to oftentimes dramatic increases in the price of oil. And since 1973 these price spikes have usually been followed by recessions,.


President Obama would be well advised to ignore political concerns and deal with America’s energy future with a much greater sense of urgency. An aggressive program of energy development, of which the construction of nuclear power plants is a vital part, is a matter of national economic security.




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