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Washington Examiner


Manhattan Moment: Why won't Obama utter the words "nuclear power"?

March 25, 2009

By Max Schulz

President Barack Obama has made energy a chief priority of his administration, routinely discussing plans to move us beyond sources that emit carbon dioxide. But for some reason, he won't mention nuclear power, which can provide enormous volumes of energy without any pollution or CO2 emissions.

In two months since becoming president, he still hasn't uttered the word "nuclear" publicly in a context other than nuclear-weapons proliferation. But nuclear power isn't the same as nuclear weapons, and the difference in the danger is of an order of magnitude.

Nuclear weapons are designed to kill huge numbers of people. Commercial nuclear power aims to power cities and improve the lives of multitudes. Moreover, there has never been a fatality or serious injury associated with the generation of commercial nuclear power in this country, including the notorious accident at Three Mile Island in 1979.

On the White House web site, only two mentions of nuclear power can be found. One is from a proclamation for Women's History Month honoring an activist who "launched a successful campaign to organize Native Americans to oppose the storage of nuclear waste on their reservations, which she said contradicted Native American principles of stewardship of the earth."

The other comes from a press briefing after Obama met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. A spokesman revealed that the two leaders spoke privately of "prospects for expanding nuclear power and how you could get public acceptance and have safe nuclear energy. The Prime Minister talked a little bit about the general views on nuclear power in Canada."

That's the sum of President Obama's regard for nuclear energy: a tribute to an anti-nuclear activist, and a behind-closed-doors discussion with a neighboring leader. It's not even clear from the latter reference if Obama himself discussed nuclear power, or merely listened to someone else. What is clear is that when Obama stands in front of the cameras, he'll talk about windmills and solar panels and green pathways to energy independence. Just not nuclear power. And it's not just the president. His pick to serve as White House green-jobs advisor, Van Jones, is rhapsodic about efforts to boost renewable-energy technologies from his new government perch. But when the Wall Street Journal asked whether he considered nuclear power "green" energy, Jones clammed up. "I'm not going to comment on that," he replied.

The question is above Jones' s pay grade, even if common sense says a technology capable of producing power but no greenhouse-gas emissions or pollution is obviously green. One wonders what Obama's game is.

During the campaign he mouthed platitudes about supporting safe nuclear power, echoing public opinion. But Obama's refusal as president to acknowledge the green potential of nuclear power appears designed to please his supporters in the environmental community, who have always detested atomic energy despite its green credentials.

Though refusing to speak the words "nuclear power," Obama did make a significant statement in slashing funding for the proposed nuclear waste repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. That's bad news, since Obama offered no alternative, and radioactive waste is now piling up alongside the nation's 104 commercial nuclear reactors.

Having no solution to the nuclear waste conundrum could have significant consequences, from nipping the nuclear renaissance in the bud to forcing the premature shut-down of perfectly safe reactors currently in service.

Nuclear power presently accounts for 20 percent of America's electricity, and we'll need a lot more as future demand grows. Unfortunately for Americans concerned about energy security and the environment, our president doesn't want to talk about it.

Original Source:



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