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PPI Report Endorses Broader Role for Nuclear Energy

Earlier today, the Progressive Policy Institute issued a new report entitled, A Progressive Energy Platform, one that includes an endorsement of an expansion of nuclear generating capacity. Click here for the Executive Summary and here for the full text.

The following is from the text of the report:
Nuclear power holds great potential to be an integral part of a diversified energy portfolio for America. It produces no greenhouse gas emissions, so it can help clean up the air and combat climate change. And new plant designs promise to produce power more safely and economically than first-generation facilities.

For example, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has certified three new designs that would use significantly fewer pumps, pipes, valves, and cables than firstgeneration facilities. That will reduce the plants'’ complexity, making them easier to inspect and maintain. From a safety perspective, the new plants rely on natural forces such as gravity, natural circulation,and condensation, assuring safe shutdown even in the event of an accident.

In addition to these three new approved designs, at least four other designs may soon win NRC approval. Among these is the promising modular, "“pebble bed"” reactor design. As the name suggests, these smaller plants would use hundreds of thousands of uranium pebbles rather than large cores to generate power. As researchers at MIT recently concluded, these pebbles burn more completely than their traditional counterparts and are thus less of a weapons proliferation concern, simply because there is much less viable material left at the end of the process.

It will take time to bring these nextgeneration facilities online. Progressives should support efforts to expedite the process.

The energy bill of 2005 included a few worthy measures on that front, including federal investments, loan guarantees, and tax credits that promise to trim $200 million to $300 million off the costs of new reactors, allowing them to generate power more cost-effectively than gas- and coalfired power plants.
We've said it before, we'll say it again: Nuclear energy -- it's not a left/right question anymore.

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Paul Primavera said…
"Nuclear energy -- it's not a left/right question anymore."

True, but it's too bad that hasn't dawned on Elliot Spitzer running for NYS Gov., Andy Cuomo running for NYS Attorney Gen., and John Hall running against Rep. Sue Kelly from NYS.
Ruth Sponsler said…
I am happy to see that there is starting to be a split developing within the Democratic Party regarding nuclear energy.

This split goes back to a general divide between two large groups of Democrats. The first group is the core of the Democratic Party whose traditions go back at least as far as Franklin Roosevelt. These folks are oriented toward building infrastructure (think "TVA"), solid national defense, and having a solid economy that "lifts all boats." These Democrats are basically moderate in social policies. They often call themselves moderates and often split tickets. They would like to see prosperity for all Americans prosper, rather than for a small group of wealthy individuals. They are probably in favor of health care reform. However, they do not believe in the special interest group politics, moral relativism, NIMBYism, and fringe ideas that we have seen from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. This group is strong among Democrats outside of California and New England. Key constituencies in this group are some union members, some Catholic voters, African Americans, and a large number of middle-class working folks. This group is often supportive of nuclear energy. I would say that the Progressive Policy Institute is representative of this group, which is the traditional center of the Democratic Party.

The second group basically sprouted up during the 1960's with the "New Left." This is the anti-establishment type group that is associated with the anti-nuclear movement, along with a lot of other things like lax drug policies, litigiousness in the court system, moral relativism, etc. They tend to see critiquing the "system" as being more important than advancing actual proposals for reform. This group is strong in California and New England and among humanities/social studies faculty at universities. Key constituencies of this group are baby boomers who long for the 60's, trial lawyers, and certain interest groups that have been prominent in the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party. These folks are almost always anti-nuclear and in fact are often against any sort of improvement in infrastructure. This is the crowd that is protesting the Cape Wind project off of the Massachusetts coast.

What has weakened the Democratic Party so much during the past 30 years or so is the second, anti-establishment group that works *against* the first group by alienating a large number of "middle Americans." Unfortunately, this crowd is often very active in things like going to conventions and "get out the vote" campaigns, whereas the first group is often busy with jobs and families. The anti-establishment group has no interest in building infrastructure like improved transit systems, parks, and U.S. manufacturing. They are often interested instead in entitlement programs and in "social liberalism."

I guess the bottom line is that it's important to realize that there is a fundamental split in the Democratic Party between the center and the "New Left" dregs of the 1960s. The center is constructive, whereas the "New Left" is not.
Paul Primavera said…


Yours was the best ever description of the split in the Democrat Party. I long for the days when we had a real choice instead of the extremism we have today, and when BOTH parties placed what was good for the Republic (in this case, nuclear energy) ahead of partisan concerns.

Very well written. I won't become a Democrat any time soon, but my hat is off to you.


Paul W. Primavera
Daniel Work said…
Dear Ruth
I could replace "Democratic Party" with "Australian Labor Party" and your post would still ring true.

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