NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 28, 2008

The word "nuclear" still sends a frisson.  Images of Hiroshima and Chernobyl and the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979 and waste in dangerous perpetuity, not to mention proliferation and dirty bombs, says Roger Cohen, a columnist with the New York Times.

But the lesson of the post-9/11 world is that we have to get over our fears, especially irrational ones:

  • Nuclear power has proved safe in both France -- a worldwide leader in nuclear power -- and America; not one radiation-related death has occurred in the history of U.S. commercial nuclear power.
  • It constitutes a vital alternative to the greenhouse-gas spewing coal-power plants that account for over 50 percent of U.S. electricity generation.
  • Conversely, thousands of people die annually breathing the noxious particles of coal-fire installations.

True, detractors have a point that wild cost overruns on several nuclear power plants and on the planned Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada for radioactive waste, which will cost some $30 billion to open, have suggested there may be better ways to spend money on energy diversification and saving.

But the French, with the cleanest air in the industrialized world, have an answer. Their standardized design, expedited approval process, and improving technology (evident in the third-generation Evolutionary Pressurized Reactor) offer streamlined routes to cost-saving.  They have also drastically reduced waste by reprocessing most of it into fuel, a long-term answer to the disposal issue, says Cohen.

Source: Roger Cohen, "America Needs France's Atomic Anne," New York Times, January 24, 2008.

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