I don’t like nuclear power. It creates waste that last for thousands of years, has potential negative health side effects for those living near them, and the possibility of having another Three Mile Island or Chernobyl is, frankly, terrifying. So, why, with all these negatives, would I be willing to endorse nuclear power? Two words: Waxman-Markey.
The Waxman- Markey bill that just barely passed the House is already so watered down (it has been rejected by some environmental groups already, including Greenpeace) that by the time it gets through the Senate it will be almost useless. Already huge concessions have been given to energy lobbyists and the polluters they represent (including for the incredibly fictional “clean” coal and the completely untested carbon sequestration). If this bill is to make it through Congress one of two things will need to happen (hopefully only one). Either we add loan support for nuclear power plant construction to lure some Republicans on board, or we give even more money to “clean” coal and carbon sequestration to bring some Rust Belt Democrats inline.
As bad as nuclear is, it is, in this case, the lesser of two evils. “Clean” coal technology is an absolute farce. It is greenwashing of the worst sort and does nothing but funnel funds away from viable alternatives into the coffers of Big Coal. Carbon sequestration is similar. In the media and in Washington it seems like people are talking about it as if it were a tried and true technology. It’s not. The problems with carbon sequestration (summed up here) include, but are not limited to: serious scaling issues, leak dangers (CO2 killed 1800 people in Cameroon in 1986), and the fact that Big Coal has yet to produce a test facility. Carbon sequestration is to CO2 prevention as corporate self-regulation is to actual regulation.
Another potential side effect of supporting nuclear: if we can swing some Republicans on board perhaps we can take out some of the other Big Energy giveaways we needed to get it through the House. That and we’ll be able to call it “bipartisan”, which is fine with me in a bill already as compromised as this one.