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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Nuclear Power, Yes, But Not So Fast

Revival of nuclear power production will be a repeat problem if the liberal-socialist regulators again get a strangle-hold on the process.

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John Tierney, the New York Times’s lone ranger of economic sanity, fingers the blunder waiting to happen when new nuclear power production plants are built.

The potential problem is not inherent in nuclear power itself.  It’s in the fact that liberal-socialist state-planners and environmentalists are among those pushing it.  Mr. Tierney writes:

“The great taboo against nuclear power seems to be over in Washington. This is a mixed blessing.

The subject had been off limits to environmentally correct politicians since the spring of 1979, when the Three Mile Island accident inspired the Woodstock of the antinuke movement. More than 65,000 protesters marched on the Capitol to hear energy experts like Jackson Browne and Benjamin Spock - and, of course, Jane Fonda, an authority because of her role in the “The China Syndrome.”

“.... Now some prominent environmentalists are having second thoughts, as Felicity Barringer reported in Sunday’s Times . Given the threat of global warming, they say, encouraging new nuclear power plants may be necessary. And Congress is about to take up proposals to reinvigorate the industry.

“..... Environmentalists originally supported nuclear power because of its obvious benefits: no dirty air from smokestacks, no need to strip the ground for coal or dig for oil. Economic benefits, however, were not so obvious to investors, who were leery of the plants’ costs and new problems, like accidents and waste disposal.

“But Washington decided that nuclear power was so good for the environment and national security - how would America cope with the crisis when fossil fuels ran out? - that it should be subsidized. The federal government exempted the industry from full liability for accidents and took responsibility for waste disposal.

“If Washington hadn’t acted, nuclear power plants wouldn’t have been built so fast, maybe not at all. But if the industry had been forced to deal with the costs and the risks on its own, it might have developed cheaper, simpler, more reliable plants.

“...... But now, just as in the 1950’s, some environmentalists and politicians are seeing something that investors don’t. They think that uranium could once again be the fuel of the future - with their guidance. Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman are working on a plan in which conservatives would support limits on fossil fuel emissions if liberals agreed to subsidies for corporations working on new nuclear technologies.

“The rationale is the new environmental crisis, global warming, which may turn out to be more real than the 1950’s crisis of vanishing fossil fuels. But even if environmentalists and politicians are right this time about the problem, there’s little reason to trust them to figure out which form of energy will be the solution.”

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Posted by Thomas E. Brewton on 05/17 at 03:09 PM
Economics • (0) Comments
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