The Obama administration moved vigorously on two fronts Friday to promote nuclear power, proposing to triple federal loan guarantees for new projects and appointing a high-level panel to study what to do with nuclear waste.One more example of picking winners and losers among industries; hardly government's strong suit.
Plus, the U.S. already subsidizes nuclear energy via the Price-Anderson Act of 1957, which limits the liability of the nuclear power industry in the case of accidents.
This subsidy means the true costs of nuclear power are much higher than they appear. Although nuclear produces fewer greenhouse emissions than burning fossil fuel, it is probably not efficient even assuming a large negative effct [sic] from emissions.
On the other side of this, I recently heard Robert Fogel's thoughts on this issue in lecture form. From what I can tell, Fogel thinks that nuclear energy is much cleaner than the alternatives, and that the change in public opinion (and, subsequently, public policy) toward nuclear energy had much to do with the word "nuclear."
I'm not sure how far to take that, but he had some interesting points on other fronts. He reported the results of several polls, asking (in some way or another) "Do you oppose nuclear energy?" In 1956, the number opposed was 20 percent. In 1977, 33 percent. In 1979, 56 percent of the U.S. population were opposed to using nuclear energy. The incident at Three Mile Island -- Fogel says -- contributed to the decline of public opinion. I can't imagine that Chernobyl helped the public opinion on nuclear energy.
Even so, Fogel told us that scientists favor nuclear energy 9 to 1. There's some tension here. There's obvious pollution in almost any form of energy production: nuclear energy produces waste that needs to be stored, coal plants spew that waste into the air, hydroelectric plants destroy river ecosystems.
In my view, we are faced with a tradeoff, but I think that makes for a good poll.
Should we use more or less nuclear power?
a. Much more
b. Some more
c. A little less
d. Significantly less
e. About the same
The poll is open for a week, so vote early and often (and on the sidebar --->). Tell your friends to vote. I'm interested in hearing what you have to say.