With its zero-carbon emissions, nuclear power has a new ally: environmentalists
IN HIS State of the Union Address on January 27, US President Barack Obama shocked many of his supporters - and quite a few of his opponents - when he came out in favor of nuclear energy.
The president said, "[T]o create more... clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country."
Later, Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change, emphasized, "As the world moves to tackle climate change and diversify our national energy portfolio, nuclear energy will play a vital role."
While environmental groups like Friends of the Earth consider the Obama plan a betrayal, and have called the president's statements "a kick in the gut," others once on the environmental vanguard have started to rethink their positions.
Stewart Brand, a creator of the counterculture handbook, The Whole Earth Catalog, has relinquished his anti-nuke past: In his new book, Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, Brand comes out in favor of nuclear energy, and writes, "Radiation from nuclear energy has not killed a single American."
Similarly, Daniel Kessler, senior press officer for Greenpeace, writes, "Many environmentalists are against nuclear power because of waste problems, safety issues and the idea that money spent on nuclear is better spent on renewables like wind and solar. Maybe so, but the drive to reduce global warming emissions is enough incentive for some to overlook nuclear's shortcomings and give it another try."
The last nuclear power plant to be activated in the US was turned on 1996, and Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, tells The Christian Science Monitor, "It's ironic, but Obama could end up being the biggest pro-nuclear power president since Dwight Eisenhower."