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 post44 Comments


Will Marshall calls us "superstitious" to object to nuclear energy...They have had 30+ years to figure out what to do with the waste,to no avail.I'd say
anyone who goes for this "clean" energy is superstitious that it'll work!

I was stunned to hear Will Marshall on your program discussing the lack of a nuclear energy policy in the Democratic Party Platform. Not so much because of the content but because of Mr. Marshall’s pronunciation of nuclear.

Just over four years ago Gregg and Evan Spiridellis made national news with their political satire “This Land” in which John Kerry’s character says to George W. Bush’s character, “You can’t say nuclear, that really scares me.”

It got me so wound up I had to look it up online to see if it was suddenly acceptable to mispronounce this word. Dictionary.com says “…pronunciation can be seen as coming from a process of metathesis, in which the [l] and the [y] change places. The resulting pronunciation is reinforced by analogy with such words as molecular, particular, and muscular, and although it occurs with some frequency among highly educated speakers, including scientists, professors, and government officials, it is disapproved of by many.”

I however remain baffled as to why someone with Mr. Marshall’s credentials would use this pronunciation.

In regards to the topic covered, I used to hold very similar beliefs to Mr. Marshall. I now feel that money spent on research, development and construction of new nuclear facilities would be better spent capitalizing on the rapid implementation of the myriad of new solar and other renewable technologies. New innovations and efficiencies in solar energy have been appearing at a breakneck pace over the last several years. We have technology and supply to use coal and gas as a stop-gap energy supply; we do not need to incur the investment to shoehorn nuclear into this role. If, on the other hand, Mr. Marshall believes that nuclear has a long term role in our nations energy policy rather than the stop-gap measure portrayed in the piece then I do think it deserves more consideration from the Democratic Party.

“nuclear – definitions from Dictionary.com” http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nuclear (accessed August 8th, 2008)

Firstly, I swear he was saying "nook-yoo-lar" as opposed to the correct "nyook-le-ar". I lost sight of his logic as this made him sound like G.W. Bush, and about as intelligent. Secondly, the big, pink elephant in the room with nuclear energy are the waste products, and the storage of them. There is a LOT of nuclear waste that is very poorly and dangerously stored around the world right now. And very little intelligent planning and discussion of what to do about that. IF nuclear energy is going to be a Good Idea, then the myriad and very serious questions of handling waste are paramount to solve before using more of it.

I thought the president was the only person who could get away with that particular pronunciation. Mr. Marshall may have made some valid points but I was driven to distraction by his use of the word "nucular".


With Generous Support From...