Pro-Nuclear Is Not A Conservative Position
March 13, 2011 8 Comments
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?