In a speech late last week, Sen. John McCain stated that we must develop nuclear plants all over the country while pointing out that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign website contains no mention of nuclear power as a solution to the current energy crisis.
"We're not going to attain energy independence nor will we reduce green house gas emissions successfully without rapidly developing nuclear power plants all across this country," McCain said.
"In Europe it takes five years to build a nuclear power plant," he continued. "In this country, the estimate is that it's as long as ten, and maybe longer because...it's been so long since one has been built," he said, also noting the issue of transporting and processing spent nuclear fuel.
The fact that McCain calls for the construction of nuclear power plants across America is disturbing. The only place right now that is considered potentially safe to store nuclear waste is in Yucca Flats, Nev. That, however, would entail shipping dangerous nuclear waste on trains and on our highways, with the nightmare scenarios of terrorist attacks or catastrophic accidents looming large.
France is often held up as a shining example with the successful deployment of 58 nuclear energy plants, but those in favor of nuclear energy who do so overlook the problems that the French government has faced on the shipment and storage of their nuclear waste (facts glossed ov in MSM reports).
Beyond Nuclear, an organization dedicated to educating the public on the health and environmental pitfalls of nuclear energy, states that
"the French nuclear story is far from a gleaming example of nuclear success...France's decision to reprocess reactor fuel has contaminated the seas as far as the Arctic Circle and may have led to leukemia clusters near the reprocessing plant. Its decision to try breeder reactors was an expensive failure. Its plutonium fuel program has not reduced its surplus stockpile of plutonium which is calculated at greater than 80 metric tons sitting in tens of thousands of vulnerable containers and with no disposal option. France has no radioactive waste repository."
The catastrophic consequences radiation exposure would pose in the event of a nuclear accident at a reactor (see Chernobyl) or during waste transportation are immeasurable. Aside from the human suffering, Beyond Nuclear also raises the question of whether or not we have the infrastructure to cope with more practical concerns:
"Yet in the event of an accident, existing evacuation plans have been found to be unrealistic. Furthermore, the Price-Anderson Act ensures that the liability of an accident to a utility is capped at $10.8 billion. A serious reactor accident could cost as much as $600 billion, the balance of which would likely be paid by taxpayers."
Perhaps McCain misspoke by jumping on the nuclear bandwagon so fully and so early, playing into the Obama campaign's strategic ambiguity on a complex, expensive, and dangerous solution to the country's energy problems.