Friday, October 10, 2008

The New York Times on the Candidates' Nuclear Views

nytimes_logo Here's the opening paragraph of Larry Rohter's story:

Contrary to what Democrats may think, there is more to John McCain’s energy program than “drill, baby, drill.” And contrary to what Mr. McCain has been saying on the campaign trail, where he proposes the construction of 45 nuclear plants by 2030, Barack Obama does not “oppose the use of nuclear power.”

This pretty well lines up with what we've said as this campaign rolls along (always pleasing), and the story gets Obama's campaign to open up a bit more on what seems to us tepid support:

Elgie Holstein, an adviser to Mr. Obama on energy issues, accused the McCain campaign of misrepresenting Mr. Obama’s position on nuclear power.

“Some specific proposals that Senator McCain has made are troubling,” Mr. Holstein said, because of the problems of storage and reprocessing, and the issue of non-proliferation of nuclear fuel.

Of course, Obama and Holstein could be more forthcoming on how they want to deal with what they call problems; we suspect they'll find them less problematic should they settle into the White House, but we've heard this from them enough to want them to move forward on some ideas.

Once you get past the take away on Obama, the article runs into real trouble dealing with McCain's positions. Partly, this is because the candidate doesn't want to talk to the New York Times or let his spokesmen do so either. That's short-sighted on McCain's part because it allows Rohter to proceed as he will.

For example:

In campaign speeches, Mr. McCain also estimates that his program to build nuclear reactors would “provide 700,000 jobs for American workers.”

Some nuclear power experts offer more modest figures, noting that much of the heavy foundry work and other tasks would have to be done overseas, at least in the initial phase.

True enough, but building and operating nuclear energy plants provides economic ripples throughout communities and creates a cascade of employment around a well-paid workforce. McCain's figure, given his plan, may actually be kind of modest.

But Mr. McCain has said he wants such work [the foundry work] to be done within the United States, even though he noted in July in Missouri that “our manufacturing base to even construct these plants is almost gone,” and added, “We will need to recover all the knowledge and skills that have been lost over three stagnant decades in a highly technical field.”

Well, true, but again, not the end of the story. Putting up so many plants creates an opportunity to revitalize the steel industry. Since it takes awhile to get a new plant license approved, there is time for investors to start looking seriously at, um, founding foundries (and for a President McCain to encourage it.)

You get the point. While the story does a shout-out to NEI, it doesn't quote anyone - NEI could have filled in this part of the story if McCain didn't want to; instead, Rohter depends on the Union of Concerned Scientists and the National Resources Defense Council for quotes. As you'd expect, they send the story into a severe imbalance.

Well, read the rest on their site - but it's a completely unfair article for something purporting to give a fair reading to the candidates' positions.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

CNBC will be airing “The Nuclear Option” Tuesday October 14th at 9p ET. Melissa Francis goes inside the nuclear energy debate with a provocative look at the facts and fears behind this controversial energy source. See why some are even arguing for a nuclear power plant in their own backyards.

Additional web extras can be found at http://www.cnbc.com/id/26868716?__source=vty|thenuclearoption|&par=vty .

Please let me know if you would like any additional information.

Thanks,
Kevin
201 735 4730

Jason Ribeiro said...

I found the article to be unfair to the concept of nuclear energy. For that matter, I've not heard either candidate bring forth some of the points which I think ought to come forward in the nuclear discussion.

Admittedly, this would be difficult to get into detail with the voters without their eyes glossing over. Maybe if a few careful words drops were put forth then the press could bring the details out in such an article. Words like "thorium power" and "modular small nuclear reactors" have not penetrated the national vocabulary yet.

Why isn't the spirit of innovation acceptable or invited when it comes to the nuclear conversation? When it comes to cars or solar energy for example, everyone is all ears to hear about a breakthrough.

Opponents of nuclear argue from a position that no innovation has happened or shouldn't be allowed to happen with nuclear. Example- nuclear plants are too big and expensive - point taken, so lets make them smaller and cheaper. They create waste and present safety issues - ok, let's design facilities to use, recycle the waste while being safer. And so on.

Many of these innovations have already occurred but the public is not getting the messages.