Thursday, December 22, 2011

Progressives and Nuclear Energy

progressives_p42-600WThe Progressive Policy Institute offers strong support for nuclear energy in the post-Fukushima era, in a paper that bats down various myths that have taken hold about nuclear and other energy sources.
The paper links support for nuclear energy to progressive views.

As champions of reason and science, U.S. progressives have a responsibility to avoid panicky overreactions and instead undertake a clear-eyed assessment of the actual risks of nuclear energy.

Taking a swipe at environmentalists who oppose nuclear energy -  and generally assumed to hold progressive views, though there’s plenty of conservative environmentalists - the paper says,

[S]ome environmental activists have tried to pose a false choice between ‘clean’ and presumably safe renewable fuels like wind, solar and geothermal energy, and ‘dirty’ fossil fuels or allegedly ‘unsafe’ nuclear power. This dichotomy has nothing to do with science.

The paper discusses the relative environmental risks of nuclear versus other forms of energy, citing coal as an example.

Coal-fired power plants release more toxic air pollutants than any other U.S. industrial pollution source, including mercury, arsenic, dioxin, hydrogen chloride, formaldehyde, and sulfur dioxide.

Generating nuclear energy releases no pollutants.

The paper calls it ironic that while coal-fired plants emit up to 100 times the radioactivity of nuclear plants, they are not held to the same regulatory standards on radiation.

The paper argues against other misconceptions about nuclear energy. For example, while acknowledging the high capital costs associated with building a nuclear energy facility, the paper also shows the relatively low total life cycle cost given the expected life of the plant and its low operating costs.

The conclusion?

[Nuclear energy] should play an expanding role in meeting America’s growing energy needs for the rest of this century and probably beyond.”

This is one of the best pieces of think tank advocacy we’ve seen on nuclear energy and benefits from maintaining a rigorous relationship with the truth. Its arguments can be debated honestly because its fact set is well-sourced and the writing uninflected with undue emotion. These are elements that are not as common as they should be among anti-nuclear energy advocates, as many of the posts below demonstrate.

The paper can be found at the Progressive Policy Institute’s website. It’s about 12 pages and well worth the read.

The Arizona delegation to the 1912 Progressive Party convention in Chicago. Progressive ideology in the U.S. as we understand it now – there have been “progressives” throughout human history, of course, however you choose to define it – began in the late 19th and early 20th century, essentially as a response to industrialization and the idea that it was crushing workers into mechanistic cogs. Over time, it has come to be understood as the opposite number to conservatism in the (American) political sphere, but that formulation gets too messy to try to explain. Maybe PPI has a paper about it.

2 comments:

Andrea Jennetta, Publisher said...

Great post! Thank you for spreading the word. It is nice to know that some who classify themselves as Democrat on the political spectrum are speaking up FOR nuclear energy. We need more of this.

Anonymous said...

It should probably be noted that the Progressive Policy Institute is associated with the centrist "New Democrat" and Third Way movements rather than the familiar definition of progressivism, which is further left. Progressives in the latter sense don't regard PPI as being a "progressive" organization.