- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

Over the foreseeable future, increasing nuclear energy’s role in electricity generation would be the most environmentally friendly way of addressing concerns about global warming and the health effects of burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas. Unlike electricity generated by these carbon-based fuels, the burning of which constitutes the primary source of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, nuclear-generated electricity emits no greenhouse gases. Moreover, an energy policy emphasizing a significantly increased role for nuclear power represents sound geopolitical strategy. It would prevent America from becoming as dependent in the near future upon potentially unstable foreign sources for natural gas as it is dependent today upon the Middle East for its growing demand for imported oil.

Throughout the recent campaign, President Bush extolled the benefits of expanding nuclear power. Particularly noteworthy was his success in winning for the second time the five crucial electoral votes of Nevada, a battleground state in which the nuclear issue could not have offered a more striking difference between the two candidates.

Pivotal to an increased role for nuclear power is Yucca Mountain. The designated repository for nuclear waste, Yucca Mountain is located 90 miles from Las Vegas in the Nevada desert. In 2002, Mr. Bush approved Yucca for that purpose, and on Nov. 2, he prevailed again. That isn’t to say that Nevadans overwhelmingly endorsed the president’s position. Rather, he took a bold stand on a highly politicized issue and lived to pursue its implementation.

Despite the fact that no nuclear power plants have been ordered since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, Mr. Bush nonetheless endorsed increasing their number. With 45,000 tons of nuclear waste waiting to be transferred to a permanent storage facility, now is the time to move forward on Yucca Mountain. And it is time to pursue the next generation of nuclear power plants.

In recent years, the fuel of choice for new electric-power plants has been natural gas, which burns more cleanly than other carbon fuels (but far less cleanly than nuclear power). The United States, however, could soon become dependent for its natural-gas needs on foreign sources beyond Canada. In ascending order, the countries controlling the largest reserves of natural gas are the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia, which is trying to cartelize the market. For both environmental and national-security needs, nuclear power represents a win-win option.

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