July 25, 2008
By Rebecca Hagelin
Radical environmentalists didn't like it when President Bush
decided not to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse-gas
emissions. And they hated his lifting of the presidential ban on
But whether they like it or not, our country needs a
multi-pronged approach to our energy problems. A big part of any
viable solution: Build more nuclear power plants.
That's still forbidden, as far as many radical environmentalists
are concerned. The folks at Greenpeace, for example, dismiss
nuclear energy as "another false solution you hear a lot about
these days." Why is it "false"? Because, the group explains on its
Web site, bringing a nuclear power plant online could take a number
of years, and "we simply don't have time to wait -- we need
global-warming solutions that are ready to go now, like wind and
No one is claiming that we can have more nuclear power plants up
and ready to go overnight. But that's hardly an argument against
building them. Indeed, because we need long-term energy solutions,
the fact that it takes time to set up new plants means we should
get started right away. Besides, according to Jack Spencer of The
Heritage Foundation, we can reduce how long it takes. The current
time frame includes four years to get a permit and five years to
build the plant. But, Spencer says, once a few plants are built,
there's no reason the permitting time can't be cut and construction
done in four years.
And if Greenpeace thinks that wind and solar are "ready to go
now," it shows just how out of touch with reality the group is.
Yes, wind and solar "have a role in America's energy mix," Spencer
writes. But although the federal government has subsidized them for
years, they still supply less than 1 percent of America's energy
needs. Plus, they're expensive. As Spencer notes in a recent
Coal, wind, and solar projects are all becoming
increasingly expensive. If those sources were inexpensive, few
would even consider building new nuclear plants, yet nearly 20
companies are pursuing construction and operating licenses for up
to 30 new reactors. Renewable energy sources would not need
mandates and subsidies to survive if they were
Many other nations already rely on nuclear power to supply much
of their energy -- and have done so for years. In another paper,
Spencer highlights several such nations, including France, Japan,
Finland and Britain. Finland gets nearly a third of its electricity
from nuclear power, and that amount will soon go up; it's building
a modern 1,600-megawatt reactor. Japan draws 30 percent of its
electricity from nuclear sources, an amount set to rise to 41
percent in under a decade. Britain has 19 reactors and is a net
exporter of energy. Russia is building new plants as well.
France, though, is the poster child among industrialized nations
for nuclear power. Nearly 80 percent of its electricity comes from
nuclear power. Stung by the oil shocks of the 1970s, France began
gearing up nuclear-power production years ago. Today, it's a net
exporter of electricity. Germany, by contrast, phased nuclear
energy out for political reasons -- and now must import some of the
energy it needs.
If Greenpeace and other like-minded groups worry about
pollution, then they ought to love nuclear power's impressive
environmental record. "Burning fossil fuels releases an abundance
of elements into the atmosphere," Spencer writes. "Nuclear energy,
to the contrary, fully contains all of its byproduct in the form of
used nuclear fuel." If France, Finland and Japan can manage this
waste safely, why can't we?
Back when energy was cheap, perhaps we could afford to indulge
the fears of radical environmentalists. Not anymore. We need a
range of solutions -- renewable energy, increased conservation,
"The Conservative Guide to Energy" by The Heritage Foundation.
We have a lot of lost time to make up for. It's been more than
two decades since President Reagan urged us to rely more on nuclear
power. What are we waiting for?
Hagelin, a vice president of The Heritage Foundationis the
author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture
that's Gone Stark Raving Mad and runs the Web site
First appeared on Townhall.com
Radical environmentalists didn’t like it when President Bush decided not to use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions. And they hated his lifting of the presidential ban on offshore drilling.
Senior Communications Fellow
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