Nuclear Salvation?

A note to proud members of the "reality-based" community. Left-of-center types pride themselves on their commitment to rationality, science and fact. But for far too long we (and I count myself among the guilty) have been caught up in a faith-based aversion to nuclear power. Like George W. Bush and Iran, whenever the topic comes up for discussion, greens shamelessly play the fear card.

Over the weekend, one of the founding fathers of Greenpeace made a powerful argument that nuclear energy is the only proven technology that can help us slow catastrophic climate change:

The 600-plus coal-fired plants emit nearly 2 billion tons of CO2 annually —the equivalent of the exhaust from about 300 million automobiles... Meanwhile, the 103 nuclear plants operating in the United States effectively avoid the release of 700 million tons of CO2 emissions annually —the equivalent of the exhaust from more than 100 million automobiles. Imagine if the ratio of coal to nuclear were reversed so that only twenty percent of our electricity was generated from coal and sixty percent from nuclear. This would go a long way toward cleaning the air and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Every responsible environmentalist should support a move in that direction.

The argument is rational, science-based and factual. It overlooks, I think, the fact that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has become a joke, allowing the Davis-Besse reactor in Ohio to come with in a corroded nickel's breadth of a Three-Mile-Island-type incident in 2001. Dammit, there's that fear card again. But such legitimate safety and regulator concerns can be addressed. They need to be a part of this vital debate, not an obstacle to it. Liberals would do well to lead by example on this issue and teach George W. Bush how to admit a mistake.