Dems need to consider nuclear energy

Will Marshall


KAI RYSSDAL: Hillary Clinton is going to be the headliner tonight at the Democratic National Convention. She and the other speakers taking the podium can be expected to hammer the Republicans on the economy. While the convention's on we've asked Democratic policy junkies to tell us about an issue they think the party's neglecting. Today, commentator Will Marshall says Democrats are short one plank in their energy platform.

Will Marshall: Party platforms aren't exactly beach reading. But they do tee-up the critical choices voters will face in this fall's presidential election.

The Democrats, for instance, devote big chunks of their platform to energy security and climate change. They rightly blast the Bush-Cheney policies that have turned a blind eye to science and made our country more dependent than ever on fossil fuels. And they spell out a smart, clean energy alternative.

But there's a missing element in the party's platform, and that's any discussion of the future of nuclear energy. In fact, nuclear power doesn't rate a single mention in 57 pages.

That doesn't make a lot of sense, especially in a document that calls man-made climate change the greatest threat to our planet. If that's true -- and most scientists believe it is -- shouldn't we be expanding nuclear energy, instead of ignoring it?

Nuclear energy has a huge advantage over coal. It's climate friendly. It doesn't pump any carbon dioxide into the earth's atmosphere. And it generates loads of power -- almost 20 percent of America's electricity needs.

Nuclear energy is no panacea. It's expensive and generates a lot of waste we haven't figured out how to get rid of yet. And Democrats are absolutely right that our country needs to invest big-time in clean and renewable fuels. But in the near term, there just isn't going to be enough solar, wind, hydro or geothermal power to keep the lights on in our offices and factories and heat our homes in the winter.

If we don't expand nuclear energy, we'll have to turn to coal and gas to meet America's growing appetite for electricity. That's an inconvenient truth for environmentalists whose hostility to nuclear power hasn't changed since the Three Mile Island incident back in 1979.

Other countries aren't so superstitious. China has plans to build dozens of new nuclear plants. And France already gets 80 percent of its electricity from atomic energy.

It's time for U.S. progressives and Democrats to break the taboo on nuclear energy. What better way to show we're serious about protecting our planet?

RYSSDAL: Will Marshall is president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute. That's a think tank affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council.

Log in to post45 Comments


Not that I want to make light of this article, but honestly energy storage should be judged on its sustainability and reliability when it comes to the battlefield isn't it<a title="Kauai Photographers" href="http://www.blinnkphotography.com">Kauai Photographers</a>

The Nuclear Industry spends tens of millions of dollars every year blocking clean energy legislation and trying to make us forget that nuclear is 200X more expensive than wind and solar.

Excerpt from: Nuclear’s Power Play: Give Us Subsidies or Give Us Death
By Tyson Slocum


"'The supposed nuclear revival is a carefully manufactured illusion that seeks to become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” write Amory Lovins and Imran Sheikh, of the Rocky Mountain Institute, “yet it cannot actually occur in a market economy, as many energy-industry leaders privately acknowledge.”

Lovins and Sheikh, and other nuclear critics, say nuclear power is so uneconomic that there is no reason to debate how safe it is — the technology should be ruled out on economic grounds alone. Write Lovins and Sheikh, “In fact, nuclear power is continuing its decades-long collapse in the global marketplace because it’s grossly uncompetitive, unneeded and obsolete — so hopelessly uneconomic that one needn’t debate whether it’s clean and safe.'"

Interesting that the people point out the large carbon footprint brought to manufacture a nuclear plant. The process is the same for wind mills and solar, dont forget they have steel components just like nuclear plants. The waste products from solar panel processing are far more harmful than the radioactive waste produced in nuke plants. And as for subsidies, the reason wind power is so 'big on investors' is the over 70% subsidy wond power currently enjoys. Spin the facts both ways .....

To the staff and management at Marketplace:
I have heard several pro-nuclear pieces on Marketplace, complete with misinformation, over the last couple of years. Compared with these past inaccuracies, Will Marshall also has not gotten his facts straight. He says that nuclear energy does not pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Nuclear energy has 20 steps of the fuel cycle, 18 of which require coal and other fossil fuel. For example, mining and milling of uranium is taking more and more coal and oil energy each year as ore quality has been quickly declining. The whole nuclear fuel cycle puts substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, contrary to Will’s opinion piece. That Will presents himself as founder of the Progressive Policy Institute is amazing: commercial nuclear energy is a regressive 20th Century technology, not progressive. Please bring on a qualified guest to balance Will’s perspective, like Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute or Dr. Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Also see our website SafeEnergyAnalyst.org for more information on the fuel cycle.
(Lowes is pronounced like Rose.)

Thanks to several of you for the reference:
"See www.ieer.org, download CARBON-FREE AND NUCLEAR-FREE, A Roadmap for US Energy Policy."
I did download and read the report. After reading it, I am more convinced than ever that we need nuclear power.

Who is this Will Marshall, somebody's brother-in-law? Can you not find someone who can pronounce the name of the subject on which he is commentating?? There is no cue in nuclear. None. Never. What else did he get wrong? He has zero credibility.

As someone who actually works at producing electricity (nuclear at the moment), it is frustrating to hear commentary only from policy wonks, spokespeople and reporters about our energy future - when it is clear most of us don't understand our energy present. If we want to know what war is like, we ask soldiers. But for energy matters, we only ask people far, far removed from the actions on the ground.

So how is electricity actually produced? In my own area of expertise, what's the good and bad of nuclear? (There's plenty of both.) I've answered these questions within a thriller novel to make them easier to digest. It's free online at RadDecision.blogspot.com (and also in paperback). Readers seem to like it.

Misplaced subsidies makes nuclear look much more inexpensive than it really is. Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute believes that the "free" market has already ruled out nuclear. No one is investing in it! Plus, the nuclear cycle from mining uranium to storing wastes uses much more fossil fuel than is generally recognized. Let's go clean--wind, solar, geo-thermal, tides--and begin trying to save the environment and the planet

Will -- I am serious about protecting our planet -- we are in Climate Crisis -- AND I oppose nuclear energy. We have to stop burning coal, however it is a false dichotomy to say that expanding nuclear power is the only near-term option to do this. A major investor who is worried about rapid energy transition (Pickens) is not investing in new nukes -- not only do they cost too much, they take too long-- it takes 6 -- 12 years to get a new nuke on line! The nuclear supply-chain is broken -- the supply of key reactor components worldwide in 2007 would build a total of 4 western nuclear power plants. Ramping up solar is actually more feasible -- and wind is already the fastest growing new capacity on the planet. Social investment in new nukes would squander the precious resources we have for real solutions to the Climate Crisis challenge. I want to bring to your attention a new study published within the last year: "Carbon Free, Nuclear Free: A Roadmap for US Energy Policy, by Dr. Arjun Makhijani. This book offers a path of transition to NO COAL and NO NUKES (no new ones and also phasing out the ones we have) by 2050. Makhijani was a skeptic when asked to answer the question whether this is possible. He surprised himself -- and hopefully the rest of the thoughtful world -- with the answer: not only is carbon-free AND nuclear-free possible by 2050 -- it is cheaper than business as usual or new nukes. The entire book is available to download at no charge at http://www.ieer.org. Please do!

Kai -- to be fair and balanced -- please get Dr. Makhijani on your show FAST!

Douglas Renick


With Generous Support From...