President Obama and Nuclear Power's Spin Campaign

12/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Within hours of President-elect Obama's victory, the nuclear industry was at it again:
spinning nuclear power and attempting to put the best light on the industry's prospects after the loss of their favorite candidate, Sen. John McCain. The President of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), Skip Bowman, congratulated President-elect Obama and
Vice President-elect Biden on their victory and then he proceeded to mischaracterize their position on nuclear power.

According to NEI, Obama's campaign noted that, "It is unlikely we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option." But just as the Republican's campaign selectively edited Obama's comments to suit their ends, so too has the nuclear industry selectively edited the Obama/Biden campaign message.

Here's the part of the Obama/Biden platform that the nuclear spin-doctors at NEI left out:

However, before an expansion of nuclear power is considered, key issues must be addressed including: security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage, and proliferation.

So rather than calling for an expansion of nuclear power, the Obama/Biden campaign actually acknowledged the dirty and dangerous downside of nuclear power and the risk that expanding nuclear power would lead to the spread of nuclear weapons.

It was this same threat of nuclear proliferation that led Stephan Pacala, author of the climate wedges articles to reject nuclear power. Pacala & Robert Socolow of Princeton's Carbon Mitigation Initiative published a paper four years ago that identified 15 existing technologies that could each prevent one billion tons a year worth of carbon emissions by 2054. In an interview Pacala was asked, "What wedges are the least worth pursuing?"

I personally think nuclear is a non-starter. In the article we were not trying to choose sides, only to point out the mitigation technologies that are already in place. However, I cannot imagine that in this era of concerns about terrorism that we are going to start the production of fissionable material all over the world. It is disingenuous when the Bush administration says that the way to solve this problem is through coal and nuclear....If you try to solve even one wedge of this problem with nuclear, it would require a doubling in the amount of nuclear power deployed. Solving the problem entirely with nuclear means increasing deployment
by a factor of 10, and if you calculate how many of these plants would have to be in countries like Sudan and Afghanistan, you are just not going to do it.

It is not just the threat of proliferation that makes nuclear power a "non -starter." Eight years of inaction on global warming by the Bush/Cheney administration have put America and the world well behind the climate curve ball. In order to address climate change we need energy choices that are fast and affordable and nuclear power is neither.

In fact, the price tag for new nuclear power is so prohibitively expensive; $11 to $12 billion per plant, that one U.S. corporation has already rejected building a new nuclear plant. Last December, MidAmerican Energy Holdings, a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., became the first U.S. corporation to reject plans for a new nuclear reactor. A MidAmerican spokesperson said, "the company's due diligence process has led to the conclusion that it does not make economic sense to pursue the project at this time."

Fortunately for America and the world, there are safe and affordable solutions to our climate change conundrum that don't threaten our planet with the prospect of nuclear annihilation. And if we are to abate the most catastrophic impacts of climate change we must avoid false solutions such as nuclear power.

Even before the Bush administration's near decade long denial of the climate change crisis, the US government had shown how we could dramatically reduce CO2 emissions and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. An exhaustive technology assessment conducted by five Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories concluded that we could reduce U.S. global warming emissions to below 1997 levels by the year 2020 while reducing oil imports by 2 million barrels per day without resorting to any new nuclear plants.

Similarly, a new report by Greenpeace and European Renewable Energy Council shows that investment in renewable power and energy efficiency worldwide would create a $360 billion a year industry, provide half of the world's electricity, and slash $18 trillion in future fuel expenditures -- all while protecting the climate and phasing out nuclear power.

Nuclear propagandists have and will continue to attempt to spin the climate crisis to the advantage of nuclear corporations. They will continue to claim that we can't address global warming without more nuclear reactors.

Fortunately for America and the planet....Yes We Can!

This post was written with Jim Riccio, Greenpeace's Nuclear Campaigner.