Pro-Nuclear Is Not A Conservative Position

File under Flaming Dumbass Goes Off The Rez:

My enemy’s enemy is not necessarily my friend.

Jerry Taylor, “Nuclear Energy: Risky Business,” Reason Magazine, 2008:

Nuclear energy is to the Right what solar energy is to the Left: Religious devotion in practice, a wonderful technology in theory, but an economic white elephant in fact (some crossovers on both sides notwithstanding). When the day comes that the electricity from solar or nuclear power plants is worth more than the costs associated with generating it, I will be as happy as the next Greenpeace member (in the case of the former) or MIT graduate (in the case of the latter) to support either technology. But that day is not on the horizon and government policies can’t accelerate the economic clock.

Mr. Taylor goes on to lay out the economic, regulatory, and investment constraints that militate against nuclear energy being competitive relative to other forms of power generation, the ways in which governments directly and indirectly subsidize nuclear power (including the Price-Anderson Act), and concludes:

Those who favor nuclear power should adopt a policy of tough love. Getting this industry off the government dole would finally force it to innovate or die-at least in the United States. Welfare, after all, breeds sloth in both individual and corporate recipients. The Left’s distrust of nuclear power is not a sufficient rationale for the Right’s embrace of the same.

Perfectly put. In the case of nuclear power, I cannot fathom why most conservatives support an industry that, but for government intervention and promotion (particularly the Price-Anderson Act), would not exist.

In 1984, Cato’s Barry Brownstein wrote:

There are many forms of government subsidization of the nuclear power industry. These subsidies include the sponsorship of research, enrichment of fuels, and disposal of nuclear wastes. Through payments by the nuclear utilities into a trust fund, the government is to take possession of all used fuel by 1998. In spite of its free-market rhetoric, the Reagan administration has favored extending financial backing to the nuclear industry, including the Clinch River Breeder Reactor. As Richard Holwill of the Heritage Foundation writes, the Reagan administration “gives the appearance of being for a free market in all things conventional, but virtually socialist on nuclear power.”

Yes, it does appear that “Nuclear energy is to the Right what solar energy is to the Left.”

I’m not buying.

The conservative argument against nuclear is not about safety issues; the conservative argument against nuclear is that it is an industry that would die a natural death if left to free markets. Isn’t that what we’re about, the freedom to succeed or fail without favor or interference? You know–liberty?

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8 Responses to Pro-Nuclear Is Not A Conservative Position

  1. Dan Draney says:

    The cost side of nuclear energy is also heavily influenced by government policy, particularly regulatory delays and uncertainty for everything from construction to waste disposal. With sensible, cost effective regulation and elimination of subsidies nuclear energy might be viable or it might not, but only by providing that market environment could we actually find out.

  2. songwroter says:

    But repeal Price-Anderson and the downside is so vast I can’t imagine investors embracing the risk.

    But we can agree that we should find out.

  3. Nancy says:

    The US Nuclear industry is taxed for every megawatt to pay for a high level waste repository. FOR YEARS Congress has dragged its feet on this, even before Harry Reid effectively shut down Yucca Mountain construction, by continuing to refuse to allocate that money to build a repository, instead using that money for everything but. The utilities are left to bear the cost of onsite high level waste disposal, in the form of building dry fuel storage facilities.
    Let’s see, they pay taxes, and they don’t get what they were promised. Sounds like conservatives to me.

  4. Nancy says:

    Okay, I looked up Price-Anderson act. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price–Anderson_Nuclear_Industries_Indemnity_Act
    It looks like it is at least partially paid for by the utilities, and currently has $12.6 billion dollars in funds available in case of a nuclear accident. The Nuclear Waste Fund has about $24 billion dollars in it, entirely pad for by the utilities, for which they have received NOTHING. So, I’m not seeing how the nuclear utilities are getting a free ride.

  5. Nancy says:

    As far as that 1984 report, we can look at that with 20/20 hindsight:
    1. The government has not taken possession of used nuclear fuel, like they promised to, and honestly, no one seriously believes that they ever will. Right now the utilities are playing a waiting game. If they sue the government for breach of contract, they know only the lawyers will get richer, and Yucca Mountain will never be built. So, they wait and hope for Harry Reid to retire so that maybe someday Yucca Mountain will be built. OTOH, they are paying the government all this money every year for nothing.
    2. The majority of fuel enrichment is done by private companies now, because gas centrifuge technology is far superior and cheaper to the USEC’s gas diffusion plant.
    3. The Clinch River Breeder Reactor is a Dead Dead project.

  6. flicka47 says:

    Heh! I just climbed all over Sam Blakeslee’s butt(again) for his dumber than normal piece on nuclear/ Diablo Canyon. Talk about scaremongering, making rediculous comparisons & twisting the truth…
    http://www.cssrc.us/web/15/publications.aspx?id=10497

    He also leaves no way to comment on his scare tactics, unless you send him an email from his site…coward…

    I’m for doing away with all energy subsidies, but I sure don’t ever see that happening. If you think even so-called conservatives like Blakeslee will ever give up on the chimera of wind & solar, what are the chances the left will? So, if we’re stuck with subsidies, which in reality we are, I’d want nuclear getting the same “breaks” . Didn’t say I had to like it…

    And yeah, Blakeslee is what passes for a conservative…Just think, he’s about the only thing saving California from the Dems wonderful budget… I’m beginning to think we’re doomed…

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