- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2011

”Surely, we can be as bold as the French.” That plea by Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, was delivered to a federal panel on nuclear waste disposal. The punch line is a reminder that the Obama administration’s nuclear energy policy is a bad joke.

The French are better known for their fine food and wine than their courage, but the land of foie gras and frog legs is a leader when it comes to nuclear power. France generates more than 80 percent of its electricity from nukes, more than any other nation. In contrast, the United States, held back by anti-nuclear doomsayers for 30 years, barely cracks the 20 percent mark.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu created the blue-ribbon commission in 2010, giving it two years to come up with ideas for nuclear waste disposal after President Obama took steps to kill the $10 billion Yucca Mountain storage facility, just completed in the wasteland of southern Nevada. The panel was instructed to consider all possibilities except the Yucca Mountain site. One option - the reprocessing of nuclear waste as an alternative to storage - was harshly condemned at the panel’s Augusta, Ga., hearing earlier this month by administration allies in the green movement. Representatives from Friends of the Earth and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League claimed reprocessing at the Savannah River nuclear storage facility would endanger nearby population centers.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration pursues its relentless legal fight to terminate the Yucca Mountain project. On Jan. 3, Energy Department lawyers argued in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that its attempt to withdraw the Nevada repository’s license application - a move denied by a lower court - is legal. If nuclear waste storage and reprocessing alternatives are taken off the table, nuclear power is going nowhere.

The administration is playing a shell game with the American people. The pea represents a solution for nuclear waste, but with political magicians moving the shells, no one will find it. Washington insider and panel co-chairman Brent Scowcroft admitted as much to the hearing audience. “There is a feeling that the government keeps changing the rules,” he said, according to the Augusta Chronicle. “One of the problems is how do we establish a system in which people can have confidence that it won’t all be changed in the next election?”

Without a disposal solution, the White House’s show of support for nuclear power is a pretense. Add its efforts to cripple coal-generated energy through new emissions regulations and mounting obstacles to on- and offshore oil drilling, and Americans are facing a future of energy shortages that could undermine our industrial might. Believing themselves to be the vanguard for a new renewable-energy utopia, those on the left are mired in ideological quicksand that will result in America being - appropriately - left behind.

It’s time for the United States to disregard green hysteria and “be as bold as the French” in the use of nuclear energy.