Skip to main content

Time to end nuclear power?

Events are still unfolding in Japan; Ben Boychuk and I discuss the future of the domestic nuclear power industry in this week's Scripps Howard column. My take:
It's not time to put the kibosh on nuclear power in the United States.

It's also not time to make it a lot easier to build a plant.

And understand: Building a nuclear power plant in the United States is very difficult. It costs lots of money and takes many years of moving through an excruciatingly slow permitting process. Advocates of nuclear power have spent recent years urging that the process be streamlined -- and some environmentalists, seeing nuclear power as an alternative to carbon-belching fossil fuels, have even started to support that view.

They're wrong. The bar to building a nuclear plant should be almost prohibitively high. The permitting process should be slow -- giving engineers and government officials a chance to consider and address all the ways disaster could afflict a plant -- and construction itself remain expensive, in large part because of all the safety measures that must be put in place.

Why? The vast majority of the time, nuclear plants run smoothly. But as Josh Freed, a nuclear power advocate, told the Washington Post: "When nuclear goes wrong, it goes wrong big." The area around the Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine, for example, is a virtual no man's land more than 20 years after the disaster there -- and cancer rates for hundreds of miles outside that zone remain precipitously high.

Cheap, mass-produced energy has probably lifted more people out of poverty than any other force. That fact must be acknowledged. But it also comes with a cost -- no matter what form it takes. The health and safety costs that come with nuclear power can be more extreme than most. The disaster in Japan is a warning against the hubristic idea we can ever make it perfectly safe.
Ben's a bit more sanguine about nukes than I am. Read the whole column for his take.


Popular posts from this blog


I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…