- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2001

The not so-well-known subtext to the current energy problems in California is the abandonment of nuclear power as a source of electrical generating capacity. Since the 1970s, the needlessly difficult process and endless legal challenges from anti-energy environmental groups have made it uneconomical to build new plants. Few have been built, particularly in the Western states. In fact, no new plant has been built since 1979.
However, up till now, the consequences of failing to make provisions, in terms of greater power generating capacity, have not been made manifest to the people who irrationally object to nuclear power. Now, the chickens have finally come home to roost, and the time has come to confront the bogeyman ginned-up by environmental zealots.
Abundant, affordable and clean energy is just what nuclear power could provide. No fossil fuels are consumed, no "greenhouse gasses" are emitted. And modern safeguards make nuclear power at least as safe, if not safer, than other forms of generating power. Indeed, the fact is that despite the hype surrounding the accident at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania more than 20 years ago, not a single person has been harmed, let alone killed, by nuclear power in this country. This contrasts mightily with the tens of thousands who have been killed, and the hundreds of thousands afflicted with diseases such as black lung and emphysema as a result of coal mining and other "dirty" means of developing energy.
Fact is beginning to win out over fiction. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the license process, says that existing plants will seek to renew their operating licenses instead. "We have even seen the first stirring of interest in the possibility of new nuclear plant construction in the United States, a thought that would have been inconceivable even a year ago," NRC Chairman Richard Meserve told The Washington Post.
The Bush administration can speed things along by supporting a proposal to create a safe underground storage facility for spent nuclear fuel rods in a remote area of Nevada called Yucca Mountain. Activists have fought for years to prevent the opening of such a facility, but their objections are based on either irrational fears, an inability to understand the safeguards that have been designed, or an outright hostility to any solution that would reduce energy costs for average Americans.
Liberal intellectuals such as Amory Lovins have stated publicly that giving Americans access to cheap, abundant and renewable energy would be the equivalent of "giving an idiot child a machine gun." It was this hostility to an improved quality of life for average Americans that throttled nuclear power in the 1970s. Lets hope that in the dawning century, clearer thinking prevails.



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