Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Going Nuclear

In a major concession to Republicans and the Energy lobby, President Obama has proposed loan guarantees to several privately-owned companies to develop and build nuclear power plants. Who woulda thunk? A supposedly liberal Democrat promoting taxpayer support of a privately-owned risky business, one of the major energy planks of the Republic party’s platform.

While there is an immediate need to develop “clean” energy, this specific initiative is ill-advised. Construction of nuclear power plants is a risky business – not so much from a technical perspective, but rather from a cost perspective. The construction of these plants has always resulted in a significant overrun, and these loan guarantees do nothing but guarantee that the American taxpayer will absorb those costs so that the energy businesses can reap the profits.

Smart use of nuclear energy will help alleviate some of the climate issues that plague us, but at a great expense. We still do not have a viable solution for disposal of the tons and tons of radioactive waste that these plants generate. Much of the toxic waste is stored on site, leaving this as yet another problem that we are bequeathing to future generations. Can we trust private companies to expend the dollars to adequately secure this waste from terrorists?

The government should not subsidize new nuclear power plants until a solution to the current radioactive waste problem is implemented and proven. Meanwhile, the dollars that would go to these energy companies would better be used to develop more renewable energy sources as well as technology to reliably handle the nuclear waste problem.

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