Thursday, January 17, 2008

Matt Yglesias: Now and Then on Nuclear Energy

It looks like Adam Blinick's post at TNR has kicked off a little debate. Over at The Atlantic, Matt Yglesias had this to say:

We'll be weaned off the dastardly power, perhaps, with nuclear powered cars?
What about plug-in hybrids? The idea here is simple: If you generate electricity with a non-emitting source like nuclear, you can power plug-in hybrids while cutting the emission of carbon and other particulate matter like sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide, which would deliver the added benefit of helping to avoid acid rain.

Yglesias continues:
I have no problem with the idea that putting a proper price on carbon might lead to good things for the nuclear power industry, but the issue in practice is that nuclear advocates are busy demanding large subsidies. It makes sense to some extent to subsidize clean sources of electricity, but we should target subsidies on really, truly clean sources of power -- and nuclear's not that.

The idea that dastardly anti-nuclear activists are the main thing standing between us and a halt to global warming is, I guess, a neat contrarian conceit but it really doesn't stand up to much scrutiny.
First, as to the charge that nuclear is not "truly clean". I ask that Yglesias take a look at some of the myriad ways that adding nuclear energy to the nation's energy mix supports the environment.

Next, I'm very, very tired of the subsidies canard. So instead of rehashing arguments, I'll just refer everyone back to the posts that Richard Myers did a few months back regarding the issue (Parts I, II and III). For more on energy and U.S. government subsidies, click here.

As to his declaration about anti-nuclear activists, nobody here has ever written that they alone were responsible for the industry's bad fortune that began in the 1970s. Here in the nuclear industry, we're very honest about the challenges we face when it comes to kicking off a the next generation of nuclear build.

That being said, this blog exists, in large part, to directly answer many of the scurrilous charges that anti-nuclear activists serve up -- including activists who are quite willing to admit, as we've seen, that the science doesn't matter. As we've demonstrated here at NEI Nuclear Notes over and over again, many of these claims have little scientific basis in fact, but that doesn't stop journalists from repeating them and forcing us to painstakingly debunk them over and over again.

The work of anti-nuclear hysterics like Joseph Mangano, Helen Caldicott and their confederates with Greenpeace are doing serious damage to the public debate. So while I'm glad that Yglesias understands that nuclear energy's non-emitting character could contribute mightily to fighting climate change, I'm disappointed he doesn't recognize the damage that many anti-nuclear activists do globally on a day-to-day basis.

In the end, I'll leave you with something Yglesias wrote over at The American Prospect in 2005:
Much as liberals may think we should increase our use of clean fuels like wind, solar, and hydro power -- and we should! -- it's simply not feasible to meet current electricity demand through these routes, much less meet current demand plus the additional demand imposed by economic growth plus the additional demand imposed by the need to move away from gasoline. That means looking at nuclear power -- which has fallen into disfavor out of a mix of irrational fear and the fact that Nevada is a swing state -- to do some of the work for us.
Amen.

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