June 9, 2008
By Jack Spencer and Garrett Murch
Take their seemingly never-ending preaching over CO2. The world
is in peril without major action, we're told. According to Al Gore,
we've never faced a greater threat, which ought to come as news to
any veteran of World War II.
What is Washington's response?
"America's Climate Security Act," which the Senate recently
debated. Sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., and John
Warner, R-Va., it would mandate economy-busting caps on emissions
and push subsidies for failed technologies. Add in some energy
rationing, and you have Washington's global-warming policy.
But there are ways to reduce greenhouse gases without wrecking
the economy. Nuclear energy, for one, affordably can meet growing
energy demand without emitting pollution or carbon dioxide.
But politicians, led by those from Nevada, are standing in the
way. A major obstacle to commencing the nuclear renaissance remains
the failure to open the nation's repository for spent nuclear fuel
at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. Yucca is more than a decade behind
schedule. Even if it were given a green light today, it would
remain about a decade from opening.
Delaying Yucca has unintended consequences for Nevada and the
nation. Opposition to Yucca has made building nuclear plants much
more difficult. By hamstringing America's energy options,
obstructionist politicians are forcing fossil fuel plant
construction when utilities might have chosen to build
But the past is past. Opening Yucca now would lead to a cleaner
Nuclear power, which provides about 20 percent of the nation's
electricity, has off-set millions of tons of CO2 and pollutants
that would have been fossil-fuel power plants. According to the
Nuclear Energy Institute, had America's reactors not been
operating, approximately 48 million tons of sulfur dioxide, 19
million tons of nitrogen oxides and 8.7 trillion tons of carbon
dioxide would have been emitted since 1995.
In other words, by obstructing Yucca and, thus, nuclear power,
these politicians, well-intentioned though they may be, are causing
the very pollution they claim to deplore. This should outrage
America. Yet the Yucca opposition continues to succeed in blurring
the contradictory aims of its energy and environmental agendas.
For example, environmental groups in 2003 lauded Nevada Sen.
Harry Reid for voting to cap CO2 emissions. But his anti-Yucca
stance virtually assures that more fossil-fuel plants will be
Ironically, cap-and-trade schemes such as the one put forth in
the Lieberman-Warner climate-change bill disproportionately will
harm states such as Nevada that derive nearly all of their
electricity (88.9 percent in Nevada) from fossil fuels.
Unfortunately, the debate over Yucca is at a stalemate. For
many, it has become personal. But nuclear energy's potential and
Yucca Mountain are too important to America's future. It's time to
put the political positioning and personal rancor aside.
The debate needs to shift to the potential that Yucca provides
Nevada. It's a valuable resource that could be leveraged to attract
high-paying, long-term jobs.
The reality is that a nuclear resurgence will require a broad
industrial and technological expansion. It is about enriching
uranium, fabricating fuel, recovering valuable resources from spent
fuel and recycling it and researching and developing new
All of this can be done safely and in Nevada. The state could
become the Simi Valley of the nuclear renaissance.
By opposing the Yucca project, Nevada lawmakers not only deny
Nevadans the economic benefit of a robust nuclear industry, but
they deny the rest of the country the clean-air benefits of nuclear
power. Without nuclear construction, demand will be met with more
coal- and gas-fired power plants -- and electricity rationing.
Nuclear power also would help locales meet stringent state and
federal clean-air mandates, with which many struggle.
"Renewable" energy, such as wind and solar, simply cannot
affordably meet the 40 percent increase in electricity demand that
America will face over the next 25 years. No politician seriously
can oppose nuclear power while advancing a clean-air agenda and
expect the lights to stay on.
Ultimately, the road to cleaner air must run through Yucca
Mountain. The choice, then, is clear. Nuclear energy, carbon
dioxide or the lights go out. What's it gonna be?
is a research fellow in nuclear energy, where Garrett Murch is
Deputy Director of House Relations.
First appeared on Fox News
Take their seemingly never-ending preaching over CO2. The world is in peril without major action, we’re told. According to Al Gore, we’ve never faced a greater threat, which ought to come as news to any veteran of World War II.
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