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Nuclear nonsense

by Susan Barba, intern at Public Citizen’s Energy Program

Congressmen Mike Pence (R-Ind.), John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) in Thursday’s piece in the Wall Street Journal, “The GOP’s Energy Alternative,” outline the Republican-sponsored American Energy Act, which calls for the immediate revitalization of nuclear power in response to a Democratic bill that focuses on limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

They tout this act to be a savior for United States’ energy policy and end their piece by asking the question: “can there be any doubt what path is best for the country?” Well, yes, there can be. Pence, Shimkus, and Upton call the proposed Waxman-Markey bill, which would act to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions via a provably successful cap-and-trade system, “draconian environmental regulations.”

It is almost laughable to call any American environmental standards “draconian” but this bill would allow the U.S. to fall in step with many other developed and developing countries that have already made a strong effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to diminish the roaring monster of climate change.

The American Energy Act, on the other hand, isn’t at all as perfect as they proclaim. But, taking a deeper look into their proposal, which wishes to produce “100 new nuclear power plants over the next 20 years,” hidden helping-hands for these future plants by the tax-payers wallet beg for a call of hypocrisy.

New nuclear power plants can cost upwards of $9 billion dollars. But the government, by the Energy Policy Act of 1995, guarantees loans for new reactors for up to 80 percent of the cost. And who covers them for any catastrophe?  The government — therefore the taxpayer — assumes liability for any disaster costing more than $10 billion. More or less it is in the hands of the citizens to support nuclear power. Shouldn’t this industry be able to hold itself up after having 50 years to mature? 

So, what do we do? Prop up this failing energy effort or invest in alternative energy sources that are, in the long run, cleaner, cheaper, and more efficient? No, Pence, Shimkus, and Upton, there cannot be any doubt what path is best for the country.