From Nev. to S.C.: Yucca Mountain, Nuclear Power

By January 16, 2008Energy

Just as the Michigan presidential primary focused candidates on manufacturing, the coming Nevada caucuses have brought attention to bear on nuclear power. Unfortunately, while everyone seems eager to embrace manufacturing, we see from last night’s Democratic debate that the candidates are rejecting a key element of the United States’ nuclear future — the Yucca Mountain Repository.

The three candidates — Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama — all stated their opposition to storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, implicitly endorsing the continued storage of spent fuel in scores of sites around the country. (Map here.) Reflexively opposing Yucca Mountain is to the Nevada caucuses what uncritically supporting ethanol is to the Iowa caucuses, but good politics and good policy are two different things.

Thankfully, only John Edwards went the next step, wandering out into political world where magic thinking replaces rational cost-benefit analysis:

I’ve heard Senator Obama say he’s open to the possibility of additional nuclear power plants. Senator Clinton said at a debate earlier, standing beside me, that she was agnostic on the subject.

I am not for it or agnostic. I am against building more nuclear power plants, because I do not think we have a safe way to dispose of the waste. I think they’re dangerous, they’re great terrorist targets and they’re extraordinarily expensive.

They are not, in my judgment, the way to green this — to get us off our dependence on oil.

Following Edwards’ vow to constrict the U.S. economy, the candidates continued discussing energy issues. We’re saving the Las Vegas Sun transcript for future reference.

And now they’re off to South Carolina. Fifty-one percent of South Carolina’s electricity is produced by nuclear power, and the state is home to seven nuclear reactors. (NEI state data here.) Let’s have the same questions asked of the candidates in a South Carolina debate and see what the answers are then.

Leave a Reply